Statements by unidentified White House staffers criticizing soldiers who served with former prisoner Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl were "appalling," and if the staffers had complaints, they should come forward and speak "in their own names," Rep. Tom Cotton said on Fox News.
Bergdahl, imprisoned by the Taliban since 2009, was exchanged in May for five detainees held at the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After the announcement of Bergdahl's release, several soldiers who served with him criticized the exchange because they said Bergdahl deserted his post.
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"What I found particularly appalling was anonymous White House staffers criticizing the service of Bowe Bergdahl's platoon and company, saying that they were undisciplined or saying that they were unfairly criticizing Pvt. Bergdahl for what was, by all appearances, deserting his unit," the Arkansas Republican told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" Friday.
"They need to come forward and speak in their own names, or they need to just thank the soldiers of Blackfoot Company for the service they performed and for keeping them safe in Washington, D.C.," he added.
Cotton argued the unidentified staffers were unaware of the hazards service personnel in the battlefield face, because they were people who had "spent the last 10 years patrolling the mean streets of the Georgetown cocktail party circuit."
Once Bergdahl was medically able, Cotton said his chain of command needed "to decide whether to proceed with action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice." If accused of wrongdoing, he said Bergdahl "deserves to have his day in trial."
Cotton warned officials against wielding political influence to affect any possible proceedings involving Bergdahl.
"What does not need to happen is the president or his senior civilian leaders or general officers at the Pentagon exerting unlawful command influence. This case should go forward based on the chain of command in his unit, not based on the president's political considerations," he said.
Cotton is running for the U.S. Senate seat from Arkansas held by Mark Pryor, a Democrat.
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