June 5th, 2014
12:34 PM ET

Five Things We Learned: White House Defends the Bergdahl Deal With 'Proof of Life' Video


By CNN's Lindsay Perna 

Kate Bolduan’s interview with Senator Angus King on "New Day" gives new insight as to why the White House made the deal to trade Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders detained at Guantanamo Bay.

PROOF OF PURCHASE: For the first time, White House officials showed senators a “proof of life” video they said justified the exchange. Sen. Angus King, who attended the closed-door meeting, characterized Bergdahl as looking “terrible,” saying the soldier “could barely talk. He couldn't focus his eyes. He was downcast. He was thin.” Most notably, King detailed the dead silence in the room after the 30-second video played, challenging those who say Bergdahl wasn’t as sick as had been let on.

LIFE ON THE LINE: King says he understands the urgency behind the administration’s action - its concern that if Congress was notified sooner, leaks might have spoiled the agreement and resulted in Bergdahl’s death. “There was a reasonable chance Bowe Bergdahl would have been killed and that was one of the pieces of information that we learned yesterday that gave it some credence in terms of why it had to be kept quiet so long,” King said.

Still, King says it was a mistake not to inform at least limited members of the intelligence committee.

NO GUARANTEE: But, when asked as to whether officials assured the five detainees wouldn’t return to the fight – King says, “There was no such guarantee… the intelligence people explicitly said that is a risk. I think it is a risk.”

IN DEFENSE: King argues two points in the administration’s defense: “What if this deal hadn't been made and the story today was 'American POW dies in Taliban camp and beheaded in Kabul' and the president didn't take a deal that was offered? We’d be having all of the same criticism coming from the opposite direction."

Secondly, King said that under laws of war, Taliban officials could be released from Guantanamo Bay when the war in Afghanistan ends.

“This may have been the last chance to get Bergdahl where these guys had true value to us as a negotiating tool,” he said.

WHO'S TO BLAME?: King blasted Congress for the resulting political firestorm, calling the partisan issue "tiresome":

“This is an outfit that can't decide its way out of a wet paper bag and, all of a sudden, everybody is saying, 'Well, I would have done it this way and I would have done it that way,' meanwhile, we are not getting anything done.”

King said that it’s disturbing that people are trying Bergdahl in public and in the media.

“Let's take a deep breath, get the facts so we know what we are talking about, and then assess and we will have plenty of time to assess, A. what kind of soldier he was, and B. whether this was a reasonable deal.”

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Matt

    Look i don't have a problem with it we stopped taking prisoners under 43 and it continued under 44 and under 45 gizmo is just one big headache. 43 issued the order to shut it down. We can't try them, we can't keep them in gitmo, and we can't take them to the basement and one to the back of the head like the NKVD. This is a good solution for the 5. We had to resettle them 15 percent had to be liquidated post resettlement. That was my job, i was and am unavailable so gitmo remains open. I volunteered for the task. And was proud to be trusted with the task by the President. It was an honor.

    June 6, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  2. Mike Bates

    So this video, taken last December, convinces Democrats that immediate action is necessary. That was seven months ago. Who handled Bergdahl's swap, VA hospital schedulers?

    June 5, 2014 at 6:38 pm | Reply
  3. George

    So why is he the only one so far that has seen these health issues. Everyone else, democrat and republican says the opposite. Maybe he went to the wrong theater and saw a different movie

    June 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  4. James

    Sad. I served with the guys that are telling the truth about this clown. He is what he is, a deserter. Talk about politics, this guy King, who doesn't have enough guts to say he is a democrat. Too bad our country is run by people who would sacrifice to get a deserter back.

    June 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Reply
    • TeamCNNCNN

      Hi, James,
      First and foremost, thank you for your sacrifice and service to our country.
      Would you be willing to speak with CNN about your experience with Bergdahl? Please let us know and we'll forward your email to our producers.
      Thank you,
      Lola / CNN VCM

      June 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  5. net

    thank you

    June 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Reply

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