Pete Hoekstra: Bergdahl Deal Lousy But Legal

Monday, 02 Jun 2014 07:45 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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The former GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee contradicted his Republican successor on Monday, saying he doesn't think the White House broke the law by secretly negotiating a prisoner swap with the Taliban for captured Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

"There's a lot of bad parts associated with this deal," former Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan told Newsmax TV on Monday. "But breaking the law by not informing Congress … I don't think that's the issue. The content of the agreement is what the problem is."

Rep. Mike Rogers, the current committee chairman and fellow Michigander, said President Obama overstepped his authority by keeping Congress in the dark on the decision to trade Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

"It's illegal," Rogers told Fox News on Monday. "They had a 30-day notice under the law to notify Congress about the moving of prisoners. And they have a constitutional and legal statute to keep Congress currently informed."

As anger grows among soldiers who consider Bergdahl a deserter, Rogers and other lawmakers are demanding congressional hearings on the prisoner exchange.

Story continues below video.

Hoekstra, appearing on "America's Forum" with hosts J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman, said unanswered questions cloud what should be "a time of celebration when you're bringing back someone who's captured on the battlefield."

"All the information to date says that [Bergdahl] asked if he could leave the base," said Hoekstra, adding, "Did he walk away? These are all questions that are going to have to be answered."

He also said the Obama administration spent the weekend in full spin mode, "trying to put a bad deal in the best light."

Hoekstra singled out U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for calling Bergdahl's release "an extraordinary day for America" on CNN: "In regards to Susan Rice being on Sunday morning talk shows, you know, it would really be wise for her to step aside and not do those for the rest of this administration. Every time she gets on, she really puts this administration in a very, very difficult position."

"I'm glad Bowe's coming home," he said, "but you know, America gave up a lot for that to happen."

Nevertheless, Hoekstra defended the administration's right to make a deal — even a bad one — and to state its case, arguing that a president has broad battlefield discretion to negotiate wartime prisoner swaps.

Another guest agreed—mostly.

"The administration broke the law, but the law is probably unconstitutional," Fred Fleitz, chief analyst for intelligence consulting firm LIGNET, told "America's Forum" on Monday. He calling the notification laws cited by Rogers an "infringement on the president's constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy."

"And a lot of these laws were passed against Republican presidents, and Republican members of Congress should remember that and maybe not push this too hard," said Fleitz.

Some interested observers are withholding judgement on the legality of the swap. "We're going to have to let Congress and the administration work that out," Louis Celli, legislative director of the American Legion, the veteran services organization.

The American Legion had asked the administration to bring Bergdahl home "by whatever reasonable means necessary," said Celli.

With Bergdahl freed, he said, it's now "completely up to the military authorities — he is still a member of the United States Army — to investigate any circumstance surrounding his disappearance and act in accordance with their findings."

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