John McCain aide disputes flip-flop charge
By: Burgess Everett
June 5, 2014 11:03 AM EDT
Sen. John McCain’s aides are lashing out at criticism that the Arizona Republican flipped his position on the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, arguing he would have said “hell no” to the Obama administration’s decision to trade the prisoner for five Taliban detainees.
The pushback is a response to CNN’s Jake Tapper airing clips on Tuesday of McCain telling Anderson Cooper in February that the United States should “seriously consider” a prisoner swap for the release of Bergdahl. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers accused the White House and the media of “selectively” quoting the senator and that his support of a prisoner swap would always depend on the details of the arrangement.
“Had Cooper asked if Senator McCain would support a deal that freed five hard-core Taliban leaders, two of whom are wanted by the U.N. for war crimes for slaughtering thousands of Shiite Muslims, under terms that allowed them to potentially return to the battlefield against America in a year, the answer would have been ‘Hell no,’” Rogers said. “The Obama administration is obviously having a difficult time defending this deal, and is desperate to discredit its critics on both sides of the aisle.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took lawmakers to task on Wednesday for criticizing the deal in hindsight and playing “Monday morning quarterback” despite previously pushing for Bergdahl’s swift release.
But there are critics of the release of the five Taliban leaders in exchange for Bergdahl in both parties. After leaving a classified, all-senators briefing on Wednesday night about the prisoner swap, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he had more questions of the consequences of the deal than he did before the briefing.
“There’s still an awful lot that has to be looked into. There’s a lot of information that came out of this — this is something that’s extremely disturbing,” Manchin told reporters.