By Erik Wasson - 06/03/14 02:01 PM EDT
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday said the Obama administration told congressional leaders about a possible prisoner exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl more than two years ago, but then never followed up.
In a statement, Boehner said lawmakers had thought they would be consulted again, and blasted the White House for trading five Taliban leaders for Bergdahl without notifying Congress.
Boehner’s version of events was echoed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee.
She said the issue of a prison swap had been raised with the intelligence panels and encountered virtually unanimous opposition.
GOP aides said that the administration began discussing the prisoner swap early in 2011 as part of confidence building measure with the Taliban.
At the time, members of Congress questioned whether the trade would create an incentive for terrorist groups to capture more U.S. soldiers. They also worried the U.S. would not be able to prevent released terrorists from returning to the battleground.
There was no discussion between the administration and House GOP leadership on the exchange between Jan. 30, 2012, and June 2014, after the exchange had occurred, GOP aides said.
The speaker’s office was informed at 11:52 a.m. on Saturday that Bergdahl had been released in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Aides said administration officials acknowledged that they had acted inconsistently with the law.
The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act requires that the secretary of Defense notify the relevant committees 30 days before releasing any prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.
The administration has pointed to a signing statement Obama wrote when singing the Defense Act into law, in which he said he believed the requirement was unconstitutional.
Boehner said that the exchange has “invited serious questions into how this exchange went down,” and that he supported House Armed Services hearings on the matter.
While stopping short of calling the exchange a mistake, Boehner said that it risks hostage taking of U.S. personnel abroad in the future.
“One of their greatest protections — knowing that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists — have been compromised,” Boehner said.