Gitmo Releases: Graham Warns Impeachment; Obama Has “No Apologies"

By:  Jack Kenny
Gitmo Releases: Graham Warns Impeachment; Obama Has “No Apologies"

Just one day after a leading Republican warned that further releases of prisoners from the U.S. prison on Guantanamo Bay could lead to calls for his impeachment, President Barack Obama said Thursday he has "no apologies" for trading five high-level Taliban members for the return of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban for the past five years.

"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 effort to try to get them back," Obama said during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Brussels.

Republican leaders have continued to criticize the release of the Taliban leaders in a prisoner exchange arranged through the mediation of the government of Qatar, which has given assurances to the United States that the released prisoners will be kept under surveillance in that country for one year. Republicans have raised concerns that the "worst of the worst" Taliban leaders will eventually rejoin the terrorist network in Afghanistan and pose an increased danger to American troops, some of whom are expected to be there through the end of 2016.

Obama has also been faulted for violating a law requiring a notification to Congress 30 days or more before any prisoner held at Guantanamo is released. Senator Lindsey Graham (shown), a South Carolina Republican and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday that any further releases without notice could prompt calls for impeachment in the Republican-controlled House.

"It's going to be impossible for them to flow prisoners out of Gitmo now without a huge backlash," said Graham, who served as a House prosecutor during former President Clinton's 1999 impeachment trial. "There will be people on our side calling for his impeachment if he did that."

The status of the detention center at the U.S. Navy station in Cuba has been a bone of contention between the president and congressional foes for more than five years. Obama came into office in 2009 promising to close the prison that has been holding terror suspects since January 2002, just three months after the United States engaged Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.

In January 2009, Obama signed an executive order to close the facility, but the Senate, by a vote of 90-6, approved an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriation Act to deny funds for transfer or release of Guantanamo prisoners. The senators, fearful that trials of terror suspects would attract further terrorist activity, were opposed to having them held in the United States.

Last December, both houses passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, requiring the 30-day notice before closing the prison. Obama signed the bill, but accompanied the signing with a written proviso, stating: "The executive branch must have the flexibility, among other things, to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers." Obama and other Democrats often criticized President George W. Bush for his frequent use of similar "signing statements" to indicate a willingness to waive provisions of newly enacted laws.

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Photo of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): AP Images

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