Via RCP, you already know why it’s illegal but stay tuned anyway for two excellent points that have been overlooked. One: There’s no reason why the White House couldn’t have complied with the statute and notified Congress months or even years ago of its intent to do a deal for Bergdahl involving the Taliban Five if/when the opportunity ever presented itself. The reason they kept mum and did this on the sly, without notifying anyone first, isn’t because they had to “move quickly” or whatever, it’s because they knew that advance notice to Congress would give hawks on both sides of the aisle time to build political pressure against the swap. Obama wants to empty Gitmo and make nice with the Taliban before we abandon Afghanistan to its fate, and complying with the law was an impediment to that. So he broke it. Par for the course, as Turley knows only too well. Two: It’s true that when O signed the “30-day notification” rule into law, he issued a signing statement saying that he regarded that requirement as a violation of separation of powers. When he first ran for president in 2008, though, he and his team used Bush’s habit of issuing signing statements as a paradigm example of executive power run amok. Watch the second clip below, where this guy actually has the balls to say he would never do something like that because he’s taught constitutional law and knows how the Constitution works. That’s the second campaign promise in as many weeks that he’s utterly betrayed.
And, by the way, if you take the Taliban at their word, this little Hopenchange gambit to build goodwill as a preface to broader peace talks is doomed to fail.
Within hours, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid shot down Hagel’s optimism for reconciliation.
“It won’t help the peace process in any way, because we don’t believe in the peace process,” Mujahid said.
Instead of portraying the exchange as the beginning of reconciliation, Taliban emir Mullah Mohammed Omar called the release of the five commanders a “great victory” and a “huge and vivid triumph.” The Taliban also published photos of the five released commanders as they arrived in Qatar.
“This huge accomplishment brings the glad tidings of liberation of the whole country and reassures us that our aspirations are on the verge of fulfillment,” Omar said, according to a statement released yesterday at the Taliban website, Voice of Jihad.
Old theory: Obama did this to bring the Taliban to the bargaining table. New theory: Obama did this to get the VA scandal off the front page. Think it’ll work? And even if it does, which scandal hurts him more?
Update: Well, well. Look what Jeryl Bier found in the White House archives: “[J]ust under a year ago, in June 2013, White House press secretary Jay Carney was unequivocal in his response to a reporter’s questions about this very deal, saying, ‘[W]e would not make any decisions about transfer of any detainees without consulting with Congress and without doing so in accordance with U.S. law.'”