Chambliss calls handling of swap 'strange'

 

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on Sunday accused the Obama administration of having "changed their story" on the reason for keeping Congress out of the loop with the prisoner swap that led to the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

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Chambliss and lawmakers from both parties have criticized the White House for failing to give even top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, of which Chambliss is ranking member, advance notice of the swap.

The White House initially said it was reluctant to brief members of Congress because the administration believed Bergdahl's life could be in danger if details on the swap were leaked. It has also said it's not common protocol to brief lawmakers while an operation is in progress.

"Well, no intelligence supported [the assertion that Bergdahl's life was in danger].  And now, they come back and because he is in decent health, considering where he's been, they've changed their story," Chambliss said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"So the whole scenario surrounding this is very, very strange," he added.

Chambliss repeatedly called the way the administration had handled the negotiations "strange." He said both he and Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) were called on Monday night, after Bergdahl's Saturday released, to be told of the situation.

"So this administration has acted very strangely about this, Bob, and it's kind of puzzling as to why they did not let us know in advance that this was going to happen," he said to host Bob Schieffer.

The Obama administration has come under fire for the swap because of lingering questions over Bergdahl's suspected desertion and threats posed by the five Taliban detainees released from Guantánamo Bay in exchange.

Bergdahl has been recuperating from his five-year imprisonment at a military hospital in Germany. Reports surfaced Sunday that he told doctors that he was trapped in a cage for weeks on end as punishment for trying to escape.

Chambliss said he hadn't heard those details and had only read them in the press, but ultimately, Bergdahl's statements would be "very difficult to validate."

"I think there are going to be a lot of things that Bergdahl tells the Army and the medical folks that he's talking to now.  But Bob, it's going to be very difficult to validate, but that's not to say they're not absolutely true, but we weren't there.  We have nobody who was on the inside," he said.