The incoming White House communications director defended the decision to trade Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders last year, even as newly announced desertion charges for Bergdahl renewed Republican criticism of the prisoner swap.
"Was it worth it? Absolutely," Jen Psaki told Megyn Kelly on Fox News' "The Kelly File." "We have a commitment to our men and women serving in the military, defending our national security every day, that we're going to do everything to bring them home if we can, and that's what we did in this case."
Psaki's comments were the first from a top administration official since the charges were announced earlier Wednesday.
Lawmakers who long were critical of the 2014 prisoner swap, meanwhile, pointed to the latest development in reviving those concerns.
"Today's announcement is the exclamation point on the bad deal the Obama administration cut to free five terrorist killers in its rush to empty the prison at Guantanamo Bay," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in a statement.
Bergdahl, who was released from Taliban captivity last May after being a prisoner of war for five years, was charged with misbehavior before the enemy, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. He was also charged with desertion, which carries a maximum of five years.
The case now goes to an Article 32 hearing to be held at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where Bergdahl has been performing administrative duties as he awaits the conclusion of the case. That proceeding is similar to a grand jury. From there, it could be referred to a court-martial and go to trial.
A date for that hearing has not yet been announced.
Psaki, who is currently a State Department spokeswoman but is slated to move to the White House next week, wouldn't comment on the merit of the charges against Bergdahl, saying she "won't prejudge those steps" that the Army will be undertaking.
The charges against Bergdahl, 28, come 10 months after his May 2014 release, which initially was a joyous occasion, with his parents joining President Obama in celebrating the news in the Rose Garden. Bob Bergdahl, who had studied Islam during his son's captivity, appeared with a full beard and read a Muslim prayer, while Bergdahl's mother Jani embraced the president.
But that euphoria quickly gave way to controversy in Washington, as Bergdahl was accused of walking away from his Afghanistan post and putting his fellow soldiers in danger. The trade of hardened Taliban fighters for his freedom raised deep concerns on Capitol Hill that the administration struck an unbalanced and possibly illegal deal.
With the newly announced charges, Bergdahl could also face a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank and forfeiture of all his pay if convicted. He is not in pretrial confinement at Fort Sam Houston, a spokesman for U.S. Army Forces Command said.
The announcement of the charges marks a sharp turnaround for the administration's narrative of Bergdahl's service and release. After the swap last year, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Bergdahl served with "honor and distinction."
But as Bergdahl faced criticism from fellow servicemembers for his actions, the administration faced heated complaints from Congress over the Taliban trade itself. "This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages," said former Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., then the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Wednesday's announcement only fueled those concerns.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the Armed Services Committee, was asked by reporters Wednesday whether the charges raised doubts about the initial trade of Bergdahl for the Taliban members.
"I would think that it would raise doubts in the mind of the average American if those doubts weren't raised already," Wicker said.
"This proves once again that the president's political motivations for closing Guantanamo Bay are causing him to make reckless decisions and will put more American lives at risk," House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said Wednesday in a statement.
Gen. Mark Milley, head of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, has been reviewing the massive case files and had a broad range of legal options, including various degrees of desertion charges. A major consideration was whether military officials would be able to prove that Bergdahl had no intention of returning to his unit.
Bergdahl disappeared from his base in the eastern Afghanistan province of Paktika on June 30, 2009. A private first class at the time, he had three days earlier emailed his parents expressing disillusionment with the war.
Bergdahl left a note in his tent that said he was leaving to start a new life and intended to renounce his citizenship, Fox News reported last year.
For the next five years, Bergdahl is believed to have been held by the Taliban and Pakistan's infamous Haqqani network. In one of several hostage videos released during his captivity, he said he was captured when he fell behind a patrol, but fellow soldiers, outraged after the trade was made with the Taliban, accused him of deserting. Some asserted that American servicemembers' lives were put at risk in the hunt for Bergdahl.
Bergdahl was freed on May 31, 2014, after the White House agreed to trade five high-value Taliban operatives held at Guantanamo Bay.
The trade was branded as illegal by lawmakers, who said they weren’t advised beforehand, It was also blasted by critics who said it violated America’s longstanding tradition of not negotiating with terrorists. There were also concerns – which would prove well-founded – that the Taliban members would return to the fight against the West.
Of the five -- Mohammad Fazl, the former Taliban army chief of staff; Khairullah Khairkhwa, a Taliban intelligence official; Abdul Haq Wasiq, a former Taliban government official; and Norullah Noori and Mohammad Nabi Omari -- at least three have attempted to reconnect with their old comrades, a source told Fox News.
Bergdhal was promoted to sergeant while in captivity, and had accrued more than $200,000 in back pay by the time he was freed.
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.