WASHINGTON–Rep. Aaron Schock R-Ill. said the swap with the Taliban to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was a “bad deal,” and that the Obama administration broke the law, commenting on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
Below, a CNN transcript of the Schock interview…
BLITZER: One tough critic of the deal to free Sergeant Bergdahl says he doesn’t need to know whether Bergdahl was in poor health or not. Joining us now, Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. Explain why you don’t think it’s necessary to know more about his health?
REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: I think, first of all, the overriding concern that many members of Congress have and the American people in my district are outraged over is that we began a process of negotiating with terrorists.
First of all, the president and the administration broke the law. This is the national defense authorization law that he signed just last year that he agreed to with Congress, that there would be a 30-day period which he should notify Congress if and when they were thinking about releasing detainees from Gitmo.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has a very outspoken critic of this deal, had been briefed by the administration for the last two years about potential transfers of these detainees and had not been convinced nor had her Senate or her House colleagues on the intelligence committees.
So the idea that the administration was thinking about transferring these detainees for several years, they knew the answer they were going to get from Congress. They knew the outrage not only by Congress but ultimately the American people would be for swapping these folks.
With regards to Mr. — Sergeant Bergdahl’s health, I would simply say, we have a couple right now being held by the Taliban whose life is threatened, and we should take those threats very seriously, whether it’s a man or woman in uniform or whether it’s an average American citizen being held by the Taliban.
But regardless of the threat against one’s life, we have a history of a country of people who have been beaten, who have been tortured and, yes, sometimes killed by their captors; and the American government has always said, “We’re not going to get into negotiating with terrorists.”
And so I guess the question that begs is, if we trade five of some of the worst detainees we had at Gitmo — mind you, the Obama administration has released over 200 detainees in the 5 1/2 years they’ve been there — if we’re going to release these five for one man, what happens when they capture a group of tourists? What happens when they capture a U.S. congressman?
BLITZER: Let me interrupt.
SCHOCK: What will be the negotiating point?
BLITZER: Just to be precise, you don’t really care if he was death — on the verge of death during those five years of captivity, a United States Army soldier?
SCHOCK: Well, Wolf, I think it’s pretty clear that he — that he wasn’t on the verge of death. Now, whether he was being beat, whether he was, you know, not as healthy, I don’t know that. But what I’m suggesting to you is this.
BLITZER: I asked the question because you said you don’t want to know more — because you said you don’t want to know more about his health, and that raised all sorts of questions.
SCHOCK: Because I think — right. Because Wolf, the point I’m making is that the deal is a bad deal. You don’t negotiate with terrorists.
And so what I’m suggesting to you is, if we’re going to start releasing people from Gitmo in exchange for someone who’s life being threatened, look out, this is a dangerous precedent; because now if I’m the Taliban or if I’m anyone else who wants the wage war and get detainees released from any of our prisons, I’m going to start taking members of our military and American citizens hostage, because now I know the American government will negotiate.
BLITZER: You know — you know that…
SCHOCK: That’s why his health, I believe, is not — not the issue here.
BLITZER: You know that hundreds of these detainees were released by President Bush during the Bush administration from Gitmo. You didn’t have a problem with that either?
SCHOCK: No. And Wolf, just as President Bush, so did President Obama, up until this point, follow the law up. The law says the president has the jurisdiction, in coordination with the secretary of defense, to release any detainee — any detainee they want from Gitmo by notifying Congress.
They have to go through — I believe it’s four different proofs, if you will, of how the person will not be a threat to national security, how releasing them does not put any of our armed men or women in uniform in harm.
But these five were not released with those batch (ph), because they were deemed some of the most hardened of the Taliban in the upper echelon of leadership. And it’s why up until this point the Obama would not release them, and it’s why the Congress refused over the last two years and the leadership of Dianne Feinstein to sign off on any kind of swap of these five.
BLITZER: Here’s the point that the White House made. Yesterday, the deputy national security adviser to the president was on this program. He said they only knew three days in advance where this would take place. They didn’t know precisely until an hour before. And as you heard Barbara Starr say, they feared going in there, fearing it could be an ambush. They also feared that if word leaked…
SCHOCK: It’s all irrelevant. It’s all irrelevant, Wolf.
BLITZER: … this sergeant could have been killed by the Taliban.
SCHOCK: It’s all irrelevant.
BLITZER: They didn’t want him killed.
SCHOCK: It’s all irrelevant. You know, telling us that, gee, we didn’t know when the swap was going to take, it’s irrelevant. Why were we negotiating with terrorists? Since when do we open up the gates at Gitmo and start releasing people? This is — this is a dangerous, dangerous precedent.
Not only did they break the law, which is indisputable, but they set a very dangerous precedent which, No. 1, let me remind you, these five terrorists are now back on the Arabian Peninsula. This war on Afghanistan was the one that the president came to office saying it was the — it was the honorable fight to fight. It was the war worth fighting.
And now as we are drawing down 20,000 troops from Afghanistan, at the same time, we’re sending five of their worst Taliban leaders back to the Arabian Peninsula. There’s been some great media interviews of folks whose loved ones have been killed by these five terrorists. And now they’re headed back into their neighborhoods, into their countries. And it sends a very, very wrong message at a time when we’re drawing down our troops. And it sends a very, very dangerous message to any of our enemies around the world that, if and when they get a captor [SIC], we’re willing to get into opening up the prison doors and letting people free. It’s a dangerous precedent.
BLITZER: Representative Schock, thanks very much for joining us.
SCHOCK: Thank you, Wolf, for having me on.