WASHINGTON – Lawmakers learned this week that while they were kept out of the loop about plans for the prisoner swap that resulted in the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, as many as 80 to 90 White House officials knew.
And Congress is not happy about that.
“The thing that is very, very disturbing is, why would the President not think that the United States Congress is useful in coming to a decision?” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said on CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama is facing a barrage of criticism over his decision to secure Bergdahl’s release in exchange for the transfer of five Taliban prisoners from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
At a briefing for lawmakers Monday, White House officials said that some 80 to 90 people in the administration knew about the prisoner swap, Rep. Peter King, R-New York, told CNN.
The administration says it didn’t tell Congress in advance because it didn’t want leaks, and because time was a factor.
But House Speaker John Boehner says congressional leaders know how to keep a secret.
For instance, he told reporters Tuesday, he was briefed about the plans to take down Osama bin Laden six months in advance.
“I was given a heads up several days before this happened,” Boehner said. “So this idea that they couldn’t trust us to not leak things is just not true.”
Other lawmakers also knew about the secret operation and kept their lips sealed, he said.
The President violated policy by not informing Congress about the Bergdahl plan, and has made Americans less safe with the decision, Boehner said.
“There is not any doubt in my mind that there are going to be costs, lost lives associated with what came out of this,” he said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, told CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” that White House officials should have told congressional leaders, even if the law gave them wiggle room.
“I think the President had the constitutional authority … to make this decision without consulting with Congress, but I think it would have been wiser, far wiser, for the administration to have notified, certainly the leadership of Congress in the interest of having good relations,” he said.
“Most of the leaks that have taken place have come from the administration and not from Congress,” he added, “so they really should have brought at least the leadership within their confidence, and I think that was a mistake.”