Rep. Adam SchiffAdam SchiffLawmakers praise defense bill's National Guard bonus fix Pelosi fends off challenge to leadership Sunday show questions swirl over optics, strategy of Trump picks MORE (D-Calif.) on Tuesday questioned the Obama administration’s justification for withholding information from Congress on the exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, suggesting leaks are more likely to come from the administration.
“I think, again, I think it was a mistake of the administration not to have notified Congress. The leaks traditionally have not come from the Congress. The leaks have come from the administration itself, and the fact that the administration often leaks information is not a reason not to share that with Congress,” Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN.
The CNN anchor noted that Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said he’s disturbed that a group of people within the administration knew of the swap before Congress did.
“You know, it does,” he replied.
King and Schiff attended the classified House briefing on the swap Monday night, and heard that between 80 and 90 people within the administration were aware of the deal.
White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest clarified that information on Tuesday, and said 80 to 90 had access to Taliban activities in Qatar. “A smaller number of individuals,” Earnest said, knew about the swap itself.
The administration has said President Obama decided not to notify Congress about the prisoner trade because the Taliban threatened to kill Bergdahl if news of the deal leaked.
Schiff said he believes Obama does have the authority as commander-in-chief to authorize a prisoner transfer.
“But at the same time, for reasons of relations with the other branches, and clearly what Congress wanted and intended, this administration really should have advised the leadership in Congress. There was really I think no reason not to.”
Schiff downplayed Rep. Buck McKeon’s (R-Calif.) suspicion that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was the person who ultimately green-lighted the deal.
“It may have been more the logistical decision about when to pull the trigger was made by the secretary, but I have to think that the president would have approved this deal.”