Obama Stands by the Bergdahl Deal, Says He 'Consulted With Congress'

President Barack Obama speaks with Jani Bergdahl, left, and Bob Bergdahl, right, the parents of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. President Barack Obama speaks with Jani Bergdahl, left, and Bob Bergdahl, right, the parents of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Carolyn Kaster/AP

It's possible President Obama thought the Bowe Bergdahl deal would be the triumphant, feel-good story of the week. Instead members of Congress have promised to hold hearings on the prisoner trade, arguing that they were not properly notified beforehand. Obama, during a press conference in Poland, defended the deal, arguing that retrieving prisoners of war is a "sacred" American rule and, more important, he did talk to Congress.

The president said the administration had "consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Sgt. Bergdahl," according to Politico. Republican Rep. Mike Rodgers immediately rejected that — according to Rodgers, Congress hadn't heard about a possible prisoner swap in three years. “In 2011, they did come up and present a plan that included a prisoner transfer that was, in a bipartisan way, pushed back," Rodgers said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "We hadn’t heard anything since on any details of any prisoner exchange.” 

In defense of the deal, Obama also argued that securing the return of prisoners of war is a "pretty sacred rule" in America. "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," Obama said, according to Politico. "We don’t condition that.” Still, even Sen. John McCain, himself a former prisoner of war, said the idea of five Taliban members being free was "disturbing."

In addition to defending the Bergdahl trade, Obama also reassured the country and other Eastern European nations of America's commitment to stability in the Ukraine. The president said he would ask Congress for a $1 billion "European reassurance initiative" that would increase trainings, troop presence and U.S. ships in the Baltic and Black seas, according to The New York Times. Given the situation back home — the Bergdahl deal is only the latest situation to overshadow the turmoil in the Ukraine — now might not be the best time to ask.

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