By the evening of Wednesday, June 4, when the White House dispatched top national security officials to Capitol Hill to brief an all-Senate meeting, the administration was backing away from claims that Bergdahl’s health had required that the exchange take place when it did. Although the senators were shown the December proof-of-life video, administration briefers downplayed the urgent health issues that had been a key talking point over the previous several days. “It was a subtle, but a very real shift,” said one senator who attended the briefing. Instead, the briefers recast their argument, saying that they could not have told Congress because a leak about the negotiations could have killed the deal. That was the reason—not Bergdahl’s health—that Congress was not notified.
Sources say the briefers expressed bewilderment that people thought the administration had claimed Bergdahl’s health condition was so poor it threatened his life. “That fell flat,” said an official in the briefing. “Even Democrats weren’t buying it.”
Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, expressed skepticism. “His health was not the critical factor. . . . In that one video, you can tell he had been drugged . . . and he was in a different state five months ago.”
The Weekly Standard asked Turner, the DNI spokesman, to explain the discrepancies. He said that the Journal article had not used his entire statement and suggested that the edited version was misleading. In a new statement late Wednesday, Turner said: “Sgt. Bergdahl’s suspected deteriorating health was one of a number of factors that contributed to the DNI’s decision. It was not the only factor and certainly was not the determining factor. It was a data point—one of many.”