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Leahy: President Should Have Consulted Congress On Prisoner Swap

Senator Patrick Leahy says President Obama should have consulted with Congress before exchanging members of the Taliban for an American serviceman being held in captivity in Pakistan.

Obama’s decision to make the prisoner exchange has set off a political firestorm in Washington. Many Democratic Congressional leaders say they’re disappointed that the White House never consulted with them on the issue.

"I think that it would have been a lot better if the President had done more consulting with the appropriate members of Congress." Senator Patrick Leahy

And some Republicans question if the American serviceman in the exchange, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, deserved to be included in the prisoner swap because he voluntarily left his unit in Afghanistan in 2009.

In order to win Bergdahl’s freedom, the White House agreed to release five Taliban leaders who were bring held at the U.S. Detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Senator Leahy says the President made the right decision but he’s very disappointed that the White House didn’t discuss the issue with Congress.

“The right decision was made any time to get an American service person back. I think that it would have been a lot better if the President had done more consulting with the appropriate members of Congress,” said Leahy. “There are a lot of us who handle highly classified matters. There are both Republicans and Democrats who could have consulted on that and I wish they had.”

Leahy says the White House has a history of not consulting with Congress on key issues.

“Had he done more consulting with Congress I would think he probably would have realized that there were some strong concerns that would be raised,” said Leahy. “This Administration does not consult as much as they should on a lot of issues, I think that it’s a mistake.”

Leahy is also disappointed that the White House has done very little to win the release of an American being held in a Cuban prison.

In 2009, Allan Gross was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was arrested for bringing satellite phones and computer equipment into Cuba without a permit.

He was found guilty of working for U.S. Intelligence agencies and sentenced to 15 years in jail.

“There hasn’t been a really strong effort to get him out even though the Cubans are willing to talk about things that could be done,” said Leahy. “I would like to see us spend one tenth as much effort in getting Mr. Gross out as they did to get Sgt. Bergdahl out.”

Leahy says he will continue to press the White House to take the necessary steps to win Gross’s release.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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