In his strongest defense yet of the deal that has come under intense scrutiny on Capitol Hill, Obama said he wasn't surprised by the controversy that has erupted over the circumstances surrounding the deal.
"Yeah, I'm never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington. Right? That's — that's par for the course," he said.
"But I'll repeat what I said two days ago. We have a basic principle, we do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind. We had a prisoner of war who's health had deteriorated, and we were deeply concerned about and we saw an opportunity and we seized it. And I make no apologies for that," he said. Asked about the administration's failure to notify Congress in advance about the trade, Obama said the possibility had been discussed with Congress, but the administration decided not to disclose the deal in advance.
"Because of the nature of the folks that we were dealing with and the fragile nature of these negotiations, we felt it was important to go ahead and do what we did," he said. "And we're now explaining to Congress the details of how we moved forward. But this basic principle that we don't leave anybody behind and this basic recognition that that often means prisoner exchanges with enemies is not unique to my administration. It dates back to the beginning of our republic."
Obama also defended the announcement with Bergdahl's parents in the Rose Garden.
"I think it was important for people to understand that this is not some abstraction. This is not a political football. You have a couple of parents whose kid volunteered to fight in a distant land, who they hadn't seen in five years and weren't sure whether they'd ever see again.
"And as commander in chief of the United States Armed Forces, I am responsible for those kids. And I get letters from parents who say, if you are, in fact, sending my child into war, make sure that that child is being taken care of. And I write too many letters to folks who, unfortunately, don't see their children again after fighting a war.
"I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents and that the American people understand that this is somebody's child, and that we don't condition whether or not we make the efforts to try to get them back."
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