The White House said Tuesday that President Barack Obama made the decision to free five Taliban detainees in exchange for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
There was discussion that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was responsible for the prisoner swap, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that Obama made the call, which has since come under intense fire.
"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," Earnest said, The Hill
Bergdahl reportedly walked away from his unit in a remote part of Afghanistan in 2009. Several U.S. soldiers were killed during missions to locate him. Those search missions eventually ended, but the government was able to keep tabs on him
through a network of spies, drones, and satellites.
The Obama administration opted to negotiate with Bergdahl's captors and release five leading members of the Taliban who were being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Earnest's confirmation that Obama was behind the deal came after House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, a California Republican, insinuated the White House was trying to paint a picture that featured Hagel as the one responsible for the controversial swap.
"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 told The Hill.
"So I hope they're not just pushing him out to be a fall guy for this."
But with the White House now taking ownership of the move, McKeon said the administration could have been trying to take the heat of Hagel because "there's been some negative feedback on this," he told The Hill.
The White House disobeyed the law that says the president must provide Congress with 30 days notice before authorizing a prisoner swap. Congress wasn't notified, but 80-90 members of the administration knew about the deal
before it happened.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was also told
before everyone else in the legislative branch, Politico reported last week.
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