NBC’s Andrea Mitchell called out a deputy State Department spokeswoman for falsely describing the White House’s history of briefing Congress on sensitive operations like the Bergdahl trade, repeatedly refuting her claim that President Obama did not inform Congress before launching the bin Laden raid.
Mitchell spoke Monday morning with deputy State spokeswoman Marie Harf about growing bipartisan anger on Capitol Hill over the failure of the Obama administration to notify Congress before trading captured Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five dangerous Taliban prisoners — a notification required by federal law.
The veteran foreign affairs correspondent rejected the White House’s explanation that informing Congress would have compromised the mission, noting that the administration had no trouble sharing sensitive information with relevant lawmakers in the run up to the 2011 bin Laden raid.
“The bin Laden raid was completely briefed for 11 months,” Mitchell explained, “and in fact, in the 48 hours prior to the raid, was briefed to the top leaders –”
“It was not actually, it was not,” Harf interjected. “The bin Laden raid was the only other time we haven’t briefed Congress in an operation.”
“Marie,” Mitchell replied gently, “in fact, that was claimed initially by [former National Security Advisor] Tom Donilon, in fact, in a conference with me a week ago. But since that time, Mike Morrell said it was completely briefed — he was acting CIA director — and in contemporaneous timeframe, I talked to a Senate chairman the day after the raid and he said, ‘I’m so sorry I couldn’t talk to you that Sunday,’ we were together. It was briefed.”
“Well I was CIA spokesperson then, if you remember,” Harf shot back. “And I think it’s the same — what we’re talking about Bergdahl is somewhat the same as bin Laden. The architecture of what this might look like — including in the Bergdahl case — was briefed to Congress, including who the five would be, including what the swap would look like. That was fully briefed to Congress.”
“But the specific operational details about when the swap would happen for operational security, as was the case with bin Laden, were not briefed prior to the operation because we believed that was a necessity,” the State spokeswoman asserted.
But Mitchell wouldn’t let up. “I don’t want to argue the point,” she said, “because we haven’t discussed this before and I don’t want you put on the spot –”
“No no, it’s my job to be put on the spot!” Harf laughed nervously.
“On Sunday afternoon on bin Laden, before it was announced,” Mitchell continued, “I was standing next to a Senate chair who said ‘I have to go,’ and later said to me — the next day said to me — ‘I’m so sorry, I was being told about the raid and I didn’t want to risk standing next to reporters like yourself.'”
“It was briefed to Senate leaders,” Mitchell declared forcefully. “I know this from [Senate intel chair] Dianne Feinstein, I know this from [House intel chair] Mike Rogers.”
“Well we can recreate history on bin Laden,” Harf conceded, “but when it comes to Bergdahl, which I think is most important today, the architecture of this entire swap had been briefed.”