- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

 

White House security advisers pushed back again Tuesday against Republican claims that President Obama overstepped his authority by not informing Congress about the deal being cut with the Taliban to releasing five Guantanamo inmates in exchange for captured Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Several Republicans, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, have noted that federal law requires the secretary of defense to notify Congress at least 30 days prior to releasing any prisoners from the terrorist detainee site.

Obama administration officials, including National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice, have acknowledged that administration officials skirted that requirement when pursuing the Bergdahl deal with the Taliban.

“Given the acute urgency of the health condition of Sgt. Bergdahl, and given the president’s constitutional responsibilities, it was determined that it was necessary and appropriate not to adhere to the 30-day notification requirement,” Ms. Rice told CNN on Sunday.

White House officials under Ms. Rice on Tuesday circulated a new statement to reporters, insisting that the Bergdahl case represented a “unique set of circumstances” that overrode the 30-day notification requirement.

Administration officials “determined that the notification requirement should be construed not to apply to this unique set of circumstances,” since providing the legal notice in the statute “could endanger the soldier’s life,” National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in the statement.

It remains to be seen whether Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill will accept that argument. Mr. McKeon said Monday that he and other lawmakers “will be holding hearings” on the matter. 

“My perception is [President Obama] broke the law by not informing Congress 30 days before,” the California Republican told MSNBC on Monday, adding that his concern was not rooted in politics, but the law.

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“This is not a partisan issue,” Mr. McKeon said. “I’m sorry that this is being portrayed as a Republican issue. Democrats also voted for this law. It was important for our national security.”