President Obama was responsible for the decision to swap five Taliban militants for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the White House said Tuesday.
The White House sought to deflect charges from congressional Republicans that the administration was trying to pin blame on Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelWho will temper Trump after he takes office? Hagel: I’m ‘encouraged’ by Trump’s Russia outreach Want to 'drain the swamp'? Implement regular order MORE for the trade.
“The president's the commander in chief, and the president's the one that's ultimately responsible for making sure that we fulfill this commitment that we don't leave anybody behind,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
Earnest added that there was “no daylight between the president and any of his national security advisers about the wisdom of this decision.”
Earlier Tuesday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) suggested the administration might me framing Hagel as the “fall guy” for the controversial prisoner swap.
McKeon said that in a closed-door classified briefing, administration staffers claimed Hagel was ultimately the one who decided to go forward with the mission.
“It sounded like it was a presidential program all the way, [but] now that there's been a little pushback yesterday in our briefing, the briefers from the various departments were asked who made the final decision, and they said Secretary Hagel,” McKeon said. “So I hope they're not just pushing him out to be a fall guy for this.”
McKeon speculated the officials may have been looking to shift blame because “there's been some negative feedback on this.”
“I think people see, now that they are learning a little bit more about the five terrorists that were released from Guantánamo, there's lots of concern,” McKeon said.
Recent surveys, including a pair released Tuesday, have shown a plurality of Americans disapprove of the prisoner exchange.