WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hammered the White House Tuesday over the prisoner swap that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. prisoner of war in Afghanistan, saying it will ultimately cost American lives.
Bergdahl was exchanged for five high-ranking Taliban officials being held in Guantanamo Bay on May 31, after more than five years in captivity. Although the idea of a deal had been floated before -- including as recently as February -- White House officials barely notified Congress before agreeing to it.
Boehner criticized the lack of consultation, but said the larger problem was that the administration had agreed to the swap at all.
"The biggest issue here is the violation of a policy that the United States has had for many, many years that we don't negotiate with terrorists," Boehner said in a news conference on Capitol Hill. "The fact is that we have violated that policy and as a result we have made Americans less safe here and all around the world."
He predicted dire consequences, suggesting terrorists would be encouraged to target Americans.
"We're going to pay for this. There is not any doubt in my mind," Boehner said. "There are going to be costs, lives -- lost lives -- associated with what came out of this."
Boehner disputed the idea that Congress had been told of the specific deal under consideration. He also took issue with the White House's explanation that it had not warned Congress sooner out of fear that a leak could lead to Bergdahl's killing.
"Six months before Osama bin Laden was taken down, I was briefed on [the operation]," Boehner said. "I was briefed multiple times over the course of the six months."
"I was given a heads up several days before this happened," he said of Bergdahl's rescue. "So this idea that they couldn't trust us to not leak things is just not true."
Still, some members of Congress have suggested they would not have remained silent. The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), said last week that he would have publicly raised "holy hell" over swapping the Taliban leaders.
Lawmakers sympathetic to the White House have said that members of Congress did know the basic parameters of the deal, but Boehner denied that.
"I was never briefed about a five-to-one swap. Nor were there any names," Boehner said. "There was a discussion several years ago about efforts to get Bergdahl back, and we're glad that he's back. But I was never briefed on any specific negotiation, and again, this goes back years ago."
While Boehner may not have gotten a specific briefing, news reports surfaced about a possible deal as recently as February. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) even said in an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN that previous discussions had raised the possibility of releasing five "hardcore" members of the Taliban in exchange for Bergdahl, and that he could support such a deal, depending on the details. McCain has since slammed the deal as well.
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