The law violated by the Obama administration when it secretly exchanged five Guantanamo terrorists for an Army solider captured by the Taliban after deserting his post is punishable by jail, suspension and removal of office, according to written White House rules.
The nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), confirmed this week that the president broke a “clear and unambiguous” law when he swapped the high-level terrorists for Bowe Bergdahl, an Army sergeant who went AWOL in Afghanistan in 2009. According to rules issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) the violation is serious and can carry severe consequences. They include fines, imprisonment, administrative discipline, suspension from duty without pay or removal from office, the rules specifically state.
The five Gitmo captives that were turned over to the Taliban held positions of great importance with the renowned terrorist group, including Chief of Staff of the Taliban Army and the Taliban Deputy Minister of Intelligence. They have American blood on their hands, according to a U.S. Senator who refers to the freed jihadists as the “Taliban Dream Team.” It’s atrocious enough that our commander-in-chief would even consider freeing these terrorists under any circumstances, even if no established law impeded him from doing it.
But Congress must be notified before acts of this magnitude are committed and the president completely disregarded the legislative branch. In fact the Department of Defense (DOD) failed to notify Congress at least 30 days in advance of the exchange, a flagrant violation of the law, and misused nearly $1 million of a wartime account to make the transfer, the GAO report says. The DOD used appropriated funds to carry out the transfer when no money was available for that purpose, congressional investigators found. This means the DOD violated a measure known as the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits federal agencies from incurring obligations exceeding an amount available in appropriation.
In a nutshell, Obama and his appointees flipped the finger at Congress, the American public and the rule of law. We’ve seen this many times during this president’s two terms and will likely see it over and over again before he moves out of the White House. In this case, the commander-in-chief ardently defends his decision to blow off Congress by asserting that Bergdahl’s ailing health and safety required fast action. The administration claims that providing Congress with notice “would have interfered with the Executive’s performance of two related functions that the Constitution assigns to the President: protecting the lives of Americans abroad and protecting U.S. service members.”
No one ever really bought that absurd argument and GAO investigators didn’t swallow it either, stating in the report that “when DOD failed to notify specified congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of its transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Qatar, DOD used appropriated funds in violation of section 8111. As a consequence of using its appropriations in a manner specifically prohibited by law, DOD violated the Antideficiency Act. See 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a). DOD should report its Antideficiency Act violation as required by law.”
In this case it would all be political theater because the OMB, which serves and reports directly to the president, is responsible for handling violations of the Antideficiency Act. Whenever a federal agency or employee violates the Antideficiency Act it must be reported to the OMB. This can occur via a letter to the director of the OMB, Obama’s close pal Shaun Donovan, or the president himself. This is not a joke. It’s all spelled out in the rules linked above. With that said, it’s highly unlikely that there will be any consequences for this particular violation, egregious as it was.