Politics

06.10.14

GOP Plans Months of Bergdahl Drama on Capitol Hill

The Republican-controlled House will investigate the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and return of the soldier in a move that resembles the inquisition around Benghazi.

The return of Bowe Bergdahl was something the White House believed was going to be a news cycle victory—instead it may turn into the next Benghazi, with at least one House investigation that will drag on for months.

The House Armed Services Committee’s investigation into the Bergdahl prisoner exchange kicks off in earnest Wednesday morning, when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is slated to testify before the committee. Expect more briefings, hearings and information requests, a committee aide told The Daily Beast.

“This is not going to be a quick hit, where we’re going to answer everyone’s questions in one month,” the aide said. “I’m not prepared to put a timeline on it.”

The House Armed Services Committee’s Bergdahl investigation will be broad, looking at the policy implications of deciding to negotiate with the Taliban and America’s prospects in Afghanistan going forward.

It was also delve into the specifics: when and how Bergdahl became a Taliban hostage, the process of the various negotiations and whether the White House and Pentagon didn’t inform Congress of an imminent release of Guantanamo detainees—30 days, as required by law—for political purposes.

The committee aide discounted comparisons to the House’s Benghazi investigation, which have become deeply politicized, saying that the Bergdahl investigation would answer questions of bipartisan interest. But Democrats on the committee aren’t yet sure how far the investigation should go.

“We’re going to see how the hearing goes tomorrow,” said Michael Amato, a spokesman for the minority side of the House Armed Services Committee. “We want to see where it goes, and just flush it out a little more.”

Armed Services might not be the only committee investigating the circumstances around the Bergdahl swap.

The House Intelligence Committee could open up a second investigation, but a committee spokesperson wouldn’t comment on whether they would. Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican, has been a leading critic of the Obama administration for swapping Bergdahl in exchange for five Guantanamo detainees, and the committee held a closed briefing on the matter Tuesday.

And Becca Glover Watkins, a spokeswoman for the House Oversight Committee headed by Republican Darrell Issa, said that she “can’t rule anything out from us eventually but I don’t have any announcements to make today.”

In the Democrat-controlled Senate, on the other hand, there is less interest in investigating the Bergdahl matter.

The Senate Armed Services Committee had an hours-long briefing on the prisoner exchange Tuesday morning, but had no further plans for briefings or hearings, said Tara Andringa, a spokeswoman for Democratic committee chair Carl Levin.

Asked whether there would be hearings or an investigation into the prisoner exchange, a spokesman for Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, “Nothing is planned at this time.”