President Obama in Poland on Tuesday said his administration had “consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility” of a deal for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, hitting back at GOP critics who say he broke the law in swapping five Guantanamo Bay detainees for the American prisoner of war.
“The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule, and that is, we don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind,” Obama said at a press conference in Poland.
Obama's trip is meant to reassure skittish allies of the U.S. commitment to deterring Russian aggression in Eastern Europe -- he called Tuesday on Congress to approve $1 billion for additional security measures for the region.
However, Obama was forced to address the Bergdahl trade, which has left his administration on the defensive since he announced the deal on Saturday.
Republican lawmakers say they were not given a 30-day notice, as required by law, about the transfer of the Gitmo detainees. And critics say Obama set a dangerous precedent that could put a future price on American prisoners of war.
Republicans on Tuesday also dismissed the suggestion that the White House kept them apprised of a possible Bergdahl deal.
“I don’t know what he means by consulted Congress for some time,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said of Obama on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." “In 2011, they did come up and present a plan that included a prisoner transfer that was, in a bipartisan way, pushed back. We hadn’t heard anything since on any details of any prisoner exchange.”
Troops stationed with Bergdahl in Afghanistan have also accused the sergeant of being a deserter, saying U.S. military members were killed attempting to recover him.
Obama declined to get into the details of Bergdahl’s capture Tuesday but insisted that the situation didn’t influence his decision to bring back the soldier.
“Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don't condition that," the president said.
“We have obviously not been interrogating Sgt. Bergdahl,” Obama added, saying federal officials have not discussed the possibility of charging Bergdahl for his actions.
Multiple lawmakers, however, have indicated they will hold hearings on Capitol Hill to get more details about how the Taliban took Bergdahl.