The report is titled ‘Report On The Inquiry Into: The Department of Defense’s May 2014 Transfer to Qatar of Five law-of-war Detainees In Connection With the Recovery Of A Captive U.S. Soldier.’
Mary Chasten reports: The House Armed Services Committee has concluded that President Barack Obama “misled the public” and broke several laws when he swapped five Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
“Our report finds that the Administration clearly broke the law in not notifying Congress of the transfer,” declared committee chairman
“Leading up to the transfer, DOD officials misled Congress as to the status of negotiations. Pentagon officials best positioned to assess the national security risks were left out of the process, which increases the chances of dangerous consequences from the transfer.”
The committee presented several findings in its report.
The transfer of the Taliban Five violated several laws, including the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. The constitutional arguments offered to justify the Department of Defense’s failure to provide the legally-required notification to the Committee 30 days in advance are incomplete and unconvincing. The violation of law also threatens constitutional separation of powers…
The Committee was misled about the extent and scope of efforts to arrange the Taliban Five transfer before it took place. The Department of Defense’s failure to communicate complete and accurate information severely harmed its relationship with the Committee, and threatens to upend a longstanding history and tradition of cooperation and comity.
The prisoners learned about their transfer on May 29, 2014, while Congress knew nothing. The department finally alerted Congress on May 31, “less than two hours” before the terrorists departed from GTMO.
The Committee also found that the five prisoners resumed their activities once they reached Qatar. “It is irresponsible to put these terrorists that much closer to the battlefield to settle a campaign promise and unconscionable to mislead Congress in the process,” said Thornberry.
During its investigation, the committee was told by the Pentagon’s serving General Counsel, Stephen Preston, that the Department of Justice “believed the president’s ‘constitutional authority’ over service members could permit the president to act notwithstanding the 30-day notification requirement.” Read the rest of this entry »
Josh Rogin writes: Secretary of State John Kerry has been painting an apocalyptic picture of what would happen if Congress killed the Iran nuclear deal. Among other things, he has warned that “our friends in this effort will desert us.” But the top national security official from one of those nations involved in the negotiations, France, has a totally different view: He told two senior U.S. lawmakers that he thinks a Congressional no vote might actually be helpful.
His analysis is already having an effect on how members of Congress, especially House Democrats, are thinking about the deal.
The French official, Jacques Audibert, is now the senior diplomatic adviser to President Francois Hollande. Before that, as the director general for political affairs in the Foreign Ministry from 2009 to 2014, he led theFrench diplomatic team in the discussions with Iran and the P5+1 group. Earlier this month, he met withDemocrat Loretta Sanchez and Republican Mike Turner, both top members of the House Armed Services Committee, to discuss the Iran deal. The U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was also in the room.
“He basically said, if Congress votes this down, there will be some saber-rattling and some chaos for a year or two, but in the end nothing will change and Iran will come back to the table to negotiate again and that would be to our advantage…He thought if the Congress voted it down, that we could get a better deal.”
— Loretta Sanchez
According to both lawmakers, Audibert expressed support for the deal overall, but also directly disputed Kerry’s claim that a Congressional rejection of the Iran deal would result in the worst of all worlds, the collapse of sanctions and Iran racing to the bomb without restrictions.
“He basically said, if Congress votes this down, there will be some saber-rattling and some chaos for a year or two, but in the end nothing will change and Iran will come back to the table to negotiate again and that would be to our advantage,” Sanchez told me in an interview. “He thought if the Congress voted it down, that we could get a better deal.”
(Before the publication of this article on Thursday, Jacques Audibert, the Elysee Palace office and the French Embassy in Washington were asked for comment, and did not respond. After its publication, the embassy released a statement saying it “formally denies the content of the remarks” attributed to Audibert by the two members of Congress, and U.S. Ambassador Hartley described them as “inaccurate.” Audibert tweeted that he “never said or suggested that a no vote from Congress … might be helpful or lead to a better deal,” and has not responded to requests for an interview. Read the rest of this entry »
The House on Wednesday approved a $3.8 trillion spending plan for fiscal 2016 that balances the budget in a decade, reforms Medicare and Medicaid, and eliminates Obamacare.
The resolution passed by a vote of 228 to 199, and over the objections of some conservatives who opposed additional defense money because it would increase funding for a special defense spending account that does not require reductions elsewhere in the budget.
Lawmakers passed the budget after hours of debate on a half-dozen spending plans, three from Democrats and three from Republicans.
The GOP gave their rank and file the choice of voting for a budget blueprint that did not boost defense spending.
But that measure had little chance of passing because 77 defense-minded Republicans, citing the threat of terrorism at home and abroad, pledged to vote against it.
They cited warnings from the military that the current funding levels are too low to maintain the nation’s defense.
Some fiscal conservatives decided to back the measure with extra defense funding, authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., because the proposal includes a a bigger priority for the far Right: A provision that would make it easier for the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act with 51 votes, instead of 60.
The Senate is expected to approve its own budget blueprint early Friday morning. The plan is similar to the House version but not identical, so the two plans will have to be merged in a conference committee in April, when Congress returns from the two-week Easter recess. Read the rest of this entry »
Byron York writes: Members of the House Armed Services Committee met with Jordan’s King Abdullah Tuesday not long after news broke that ISIS had burned to death a Jordanian pilot captured in the fight against the terrorist group.
“He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn’t seen. He mentioned ‘Unforgiven’ and he mentioned Clint Eastwood, and he actually quoted a part of the movie.”
— Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., who was in the meeting with the king.
In a private session with lawmakers, the king showed an extraordinary measure of anger — anger which he expressed by citing American movie icon Clint Eastwood.
“He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn’t seen,” said Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., a Marine Corps veteran of two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, who was in the meeting with the king. “He mentioned ‘Unforgiven’ and he mentioned Clint Eastwood, and he actually quoted a part of the movie.”
“He’s angry. They’re starting more sorties tomorrow than they’ve ever had. They’re starting tomorrow. And he said, ‘The only problem we’re going to have is running out of fuel and bullets.”
Hunter would not say which part of “Unforgiven” the king quoted, but noted it was where Eastwood’s character describes how he is going to deliver his retribution. There is a scene in the picture in which Eastwood’s character, William Munny, says…(read more)
From The Greenroom:
“Compared to Iraq, Kosovo, Libya, it’s small — it is not any of those things,” the secretary said at the House Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday morning. “That doesn’t mean it would be anything less than what I’ve suggested previously, and the military has suggested, that Assad will know — we don’t do pin pricks.”
Of course, this was still in the “Syria is Munich all over again!” paradigm. We’re now in the “What’s Munich again?” paradigm. Try to keep up, all you Winstons out there.