More and more U.S. senators who attended a closed-door meeting held Wednesday to hear the Obama administration’s case for the exchange of five Taliban commanders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are saying that the meeting left them wanting, and at least one is now comparing the administration’s handling of the matter to Benghazi.
Pentagon officials and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff showed the group of senators a “proof of life” video made of Bergdahl in December.
Many in Congress had expressed frustration that the Obama administration did not give them the 30-day notification required by law. Airing the video was meant to show the senators that Bergdahl, who had been held for nearly five years by the Taliban, was in imminent danger.
But many of the senators who attended the meeting were not sold on the administration’s presentation.
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who was in attendance, told The Daily Caller he went to the senators-only briefing “in hopes of getting real answers from the White House.”
“Unfortunately, there were no reasonable answers to our questions, and I didn’t learn anything that hadn’t already been reported by the media,” he said.
Moran said he found it disturbing that the White House could not answer questions on why Congress wasn’t properly notified of the deal. The officials also didn’t provide a strong enough justification for giving up five Taliban officials, especially when other Americans are in captivity, Moran said.
He wondered why the administration “brought home Americans who remain held in poor conditions like Alan Gross and Saeed Abedini but selectively rescued Bowe Bergdahl.”
Perhaps the strongest complaint was made by Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
“That did not sell me at all,” Manchin said as he was leaving the briefing, according to The Washington Post. “That was from five months ago, he was impaired. … That was not the person who was released here. He was not in that type of dire situation when released.”
“I learned nothing,” said Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Many in attendance have said that Bergdahl looked drugged and incapacitated and that his speech was slurred.
Illinois Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin that Bergdahl “did not look well.” Florida Republican Marco Rubio said he saw “no evidence” that Bergdahl was in imminent danger.
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts fired off a testy statement on Thursday, saying that he left the meeting “as frustrated as I entered.”
“The President’s National Security Council ‘B’ team continues to tell us that their number one commitment was to never, under any circumstances, leave a man behind,” said Roberts, a Republican.
“This is clearly false, given what happened in Benghazi.”
Roberts also said he believes the release of the five Taliban was a first step in closing Guantanamo Bay, a claim which has been floated since last week’s release.
“This is the President’s latest attempt to close Guantanamo Bay, something I have opposed from the start when he attempted to move terrorists to Leavenworth, Kansas.”
Bergdahl left his Army unit in the Paktika province of eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.