ABC’s Stephanopoulos Spins for Obama After White House Fails to Notify Congress Prior to Releasing Terrorist Prisoners

On Saturday, May 31, both the CBS Evening News and ABC World News with David Muir failed to report that President Obama may have violated U.S. law by failing to notify Congress prior to the release of five terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a U.S. soldier held captive by the Taliban. 

While CBS and ABC ignored the controversy in their coverage of the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl on Saturday, on Sunday June 1, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos provided the first coverage of the potential violation of U.S. law by spinning for the Obama Administration.

Appearing on Good Morning America to preview his This Week program, Stephanopoulos immediately peddled White House talking points: 

What the president says, what the president’s advisers say is that this was moving so fast, they couldn't talk to the Congress. But they also say the president when he signed this law, said he had the constitutional authority not to live by it, that he had the constitutional authority to go around Congress and simply do what he needed to do to get the detainees back to their home countries. 

After GMA co-host Bianna Golodryga pushed back against Obama’s refusal to notify Congress, the This Week moderator doubled-down in his defense of the White House: 

I think they were very afraid that these details would leak. This has been a five-year operation to get Sergeant Bbergdahl home. Apparently, they didn't even tell president Karzai of Afghanistan for fear that it would leak as well. 

And it all came together very quickly in the final days. You might ask could they have called the Speaker of House or the Republican leader, the Democratic leader of the Senate and given them a heads up. Perhaps. But the White House says this was just moving too fast. 

On CBS Sunday Morning, host Charles Osgood concluded a report on Bergdahl’s release by noting: “Republican Congressional leaders say they believe the prisoner exchange was illegal. They say that president is required to notify Congress 30 days before any transfer of Taliban detainees from Guantanamo . Today on his way to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Congress was kept in the dark because Bergdahl's life was in danger.” 

See relevant transcripts below. 


ABC 

Good Morning America 

June 1, 2014 

8:10 a.m. Eastern 

DAN HARRIS: While they are celebrating in Idaho as we’ve said the same cannot be said for some on Capitol Hill, where top Republicans are vocally criticizing this prisoner swap even accusing the president of breaking the law here. So let's bring in the host of "This Week," George Stephanopoulos. George, good morning. 

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. 

HARRIS: Back to Ronald Reagan, presidents in this country have said, we will not negotiate with terrorists. But isn't that what President Obama did here? 

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's exactly what the Republicans are charging and going back to Ronald Reagan presidents have negotiated for the release of prisoners if that’s what they thought was necessary at the time. But it’s a big question. It’s one of the questions I'm going to put to Ambassador Rice this morning, the president's National Security Adviser. Will this put other American troops at risk? The second question is, this question of whether or not the president broke the law by failing to notify Congress 30 days before the transfer of these detainees from Guantanamo. What the president says, what the president’s advisers say is that this was moving so fast, they couldn't talk to the Congress. But they also say the president when he signed this law, said he had the constitutional authority not to live by it, that he had the constitutional authority to go around Congress and simply do what he needed to do to get the detainees back to their home countries. 

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: But then why make things so murky? Why not just approach Congress and say that you’re planning on doing this instead of becoming so divisive? 

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think they were very afraid that these details would leak. This has been a five-year operation to get Sergeant Bergdahl home. Apparently, they didn't even tell president Karzai of Afghanistan for fear that it would leak as well. And it all came together very quickly in the final days. You might ask could they have called the Speaker of House or the Republican leader, the Democratic leader of the Senate and given them a heads up. Perhaps. But the White House says this was just moving too fast. 

 

CBS 

CBS News Sunday Morning 

June 1, 2014

9:06 a.m. Eastern 

CHARLES OSGOOD: Republican Congressional leaders say they believe the prisoner exchange was illegal. They say that president is required to notify Congress 30 days before any transfer of Taliban detainees from Guantanamo . Today on his way to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Congress was kept in the dark because Bergdahl's life was in danger.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.