Things got heated between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Florida Republican Congressman Jeff Miller during a House Armed Services hearing regarding Bowe Bergdahl on Wednesday, with the DoD head telling the lawmaker he “doesn’t like the implication” of a question on why the Army Sgt. is still sequestered in Germany.
Hagel testified Wednesday before a deeply skeptical Congress, with members on both sides of the aisle upset that the White House had not informed them of the release of five dangerous Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl — a notification required by federal law.
Miller began his line of questioning by forcing Hagel to admit that the Obama administration failed to follow that law and that the courts, not the executive branch, have sole power to interpret what is and is not constitutional.
But the exchange turned hostile when Miller asked why Bowe Bergdahl — widely suspected to be a deserter and possible Taliban collaborator — is still stuck in Landstuhl Army base in Germany, unable to be questioned.
“You keep saying we can’t get the facts from Sgt. Bergdahl until he returns home,” the lawmaker asked. “Have you ever thought about going to Landstuhl and talking to him there?”
“Well I don’t know how much medical training you had, congressman,” Hagel replied. “I haven’t had much. what we’re doing is we’re allowing –”
“Wait a minute. Wait a minute,” Miller interrupted. “Why hasn’t he been returned to the United States? We have seriously wounded soldiers that have returned to the United States almost immediately after they are stabilized . . . You’re trying to tell me that he’s being held in Landstuhl, Germany because of his medical condition?”
“Congressman, I hope you’re not implying anything other than that,” Hagel replied. “The fact — ”
“I’m just asking the question!” Miller pushed back.
“I’m gonna give you an answer too,” the Defense Secretary said angrily. “I don’t like the implication of the question! He’s being held there because our medical professionals don’t believe he’s ready until they believe he’s ready to take the next step to rehabilitation.”
“So you’re telling me he cannot be questioned because of his condition?” Miller later asked.
“I’m telling you that the medical professions that rely on their judgment for his health — which I assume everybody respects — have made the determination and will make the determination that when he is ready to move and move to the next step, which most likely in San Antonio, then we can proceed,” Hagel concluded. “That’s what I’m saying.”