The White House failed Wednesday in a closed-door briefing to convince critical members of Congress that it made the right move by exchanging five Taliban members for a captive American without giving Congress prior notice.
Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, ranking GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Fox News Channel's "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren"
that he left the meeting more convinced than ever that "the White House played this so close to the vest intentionally, and made a determination not to give Congress notice."
Critics in both parties
have blasted the deal made over the weekend, partly because they say the high-ranking Taliban leaders will return to the field of battle and partly because they say President Barack Obama broke the law by not giving Congress 30 days' notice.
Chambliss said his criticism focused on the lack of notification. He said he could understand an emergency situation in which 30 days' notice would not be possible, but the deal was in the works long enough that a few days' notice would have been doable.
"It was like they didn't trust Dianne [Feinstein] and me," Chambliss said. Feinstein, a California Democrat, chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Both Feinstein and Chambliss were told of the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden months in advance, he said, so the administration had no reason to fear a leak in this case.
Chambliss said he asked Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken why they at least didn't call "several days out."
The five Taliban leaders were exchanged for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive for five years by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network. The administration said a proof-of-life video released near the time of Nelson Mandela's death showed Bergdahl's health to be failing and he needed to be rescued quickly.
Chambliss said that video was shown in the meeting but didn't seem to indicate his life was in danger from poor health. He and other Republicans said Bergdahl appeared more likely to have been heavily drugged.
"My comment back to the administration is that I'm not going to believe anything they tell me from now on," Chambliss said.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain emerged from the meeting saying, "I learned nothing in the briefing, nor did I expect to learn anything in this briefing."
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he found it offensive that the White House suggested the release of the Taliban members might have been seen as a goodwill gesture on the part of the United States.
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin also wasn't pleased with the administration's explanation, CNN reported, and no Democrats were willing to defend the White House on camera.
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