Cantor 'very concerned' by Bergdahl swap

Lauren Schneiderman

CULPEPER, Va. – House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Thursday he was “very concerned” about the prisoner swap that brought a U.S. soldier home from capture by the Taliban in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Cantor, making his first comments on the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl last week, said President Obama needed to provide answers about whether Bergdahl deserted his Army unit and how he could be assured that the five prisoners that Republicans have labeled a “Taliban Dream Team” won’t return to battle against the U.S.

ADVERTISEMENT
“Congress is going to look into this,” Cantor told The Hill as he campaigned at a business fair ahead of his primary election on Tuesday. “The American people are owed answers to the question of the situation of desertion. Congress and the American people are owed the answer to the question of the president’s statement that there was an urgency surrounding his decision-making. We also, I think, need to find out what the president thinks he has done to safeguard Americans and American interests by saying that these five hardened combatant terrorists are not going to be coming back at us to kill us.”

Obama has said he would make “no apologies” for the deal that secured Bergdahl’s release five years after his disappearance. Republicans have also criticized the president for failing to inform Congress of the exchange in advance. The New York Times reported Thursday that U.S. officials kept the deal a closely-guarded secret because of fears that he would be killed by the Taliban if word leaked out.

Members of Bergdahl’s unit have spoken out in recent days to say he walked away from his post, and his hometown canceled a celebration in his honor amid questions about his behavior in the military.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has voiced similar concerns about the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s release, and in a statement earlier this week he said the House would hold hearings on the matter. The administration briefed senior congressional officials in 2011 and 2012 about negotiations with the Taliban about Bergdahl, but did not give Boehner prior notice of the ultimate agreement last week.

In his own comments, Cantor said it was important that the U.S. “value a single life” even as he called Obama’s decision worrisome and said it fed an increasing sense among the nation’s foes and allies that the U.S. lacked “resolve.”

“First of all, I think it needs to be said that our men and women in uniform, to go into battle for us, need to know that we’ve got their back, and the time-honored that we’ll leave no man or woman soldier behind is in our code,” Cantor said. “Now, that doesn't mean that we don’t have a lot of concerns about the surrounding situation of Bergdahl.”

Cantor’s primary opponent, David Brat, said Congress needed to investigate the matter but that he would reserve further comment until he had more information about Bergdahl and his release.

“It looks like the president didn’t follow the law of the land,” Brat said in an interview. “They ought to look into that and investigate it. The deal, at first blush, doesn’t look too good to me.”

More in Defense

Bergdahl review complete, Hagel to be briefed

Read more »