Pentagon: 'We don't want to rush to judgment' in Bergdahl case

Pentagon spokesperson discusses the investigation


This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 29, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome to "Hannity." The Army announced more than three months ago, in October, that it had completed its investigation into Bowe Bergdahl's 2009 disappearance, but the findings have not yet been made public. And here's why we think this is important. 

Now, after the White House freed these five Taliban members that were held at Gitmo in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl's freedom, well, members of the Obama administration -- they went front and center in front of the cameras and said this.


SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, "THIS WEEK"/ABC, JUNE 1, 2014: The point is that he's back.  He's going to be safely reunited with his family. He served the United States with honor and distinction.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, CNN, JUNE 2, 2014: Sergeant Bergdahl put on the uniform of the United States voluntarily and went to war for the United States voluntarily. That takes honor, and it is a mark of distinction.

CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, JUNE 4, 2014: It's not in the interests of anyone, and certainly, I think, a bit unfair to Sergeant Bergdahl's family and to him, to presume anything.


HANNITY: Well, members of Bergdahl's platoon, people who served alongside him, tell a very different story. Watch this.


CODY FULL, BERGDAHL'S PLATOON MEMBER, JULY 14, 2014: He needs to face consequences for his actions.  Not only is it a slap in the face to all the men and women who have served honorably, who upheld their oath, and it's also a bad precedence to set towards future service members.

SGT. EVAN BUETOW, BERGDHAL'S PLATOON LEADER, JUNE 4, 2014: To say that Bowe is honorable is an -- it's a spit right in everybody's faces. And it is frustrating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, JUNE 3, 2014: He needs to go through all the proper channels that any other deserter would go through.


HANNITY: And disturbing news tonight. A U.S. official confirms to Fox News that one of the five Taliban members traded for Bergdahl has been discovered making phone calls to the Taliban.

Joining me now with reaction is Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby is back with us. Sir, good to see you. Thank you for being here.


HANNITY: How do you reconcile a White House saying that Bergdahl served with honor and distinction, with his platoon mates who said it's a spit in the face, that, you know, he deserted, that he should be court- martialed? These are the people he served with!

KIRBY: Sure.

HANNITY: How do you reconcile these two very different stories?

KIRBY: Well, I know there's a lot of emotion revolving around this, and we understand that there are former troops that served with him that have concerns about accountability here.

What I can tell you is that the characterization of his service will be one of the things that General Milley works on as he works through this investigation and figures out how to dispose of the case. Certainly, characterization of service will come a part of that.

And I can tell you that no institution, none that I've seen in almost 30 years of serving in the military, is more accountable than we are. And we're transparent about it. And we expect a certain level of conduct and behavior out of our troops and out of our officers, and when they don't meet that, they're held to account.

But we don't want to rush to judgment here. General Milley has only had the investigation for about a month. He's working his way through it.  And then he'll make the decision about how this should be disposed of.

And I can guarantee you one thing, and I've known General Milley a long time. He's a thoughtful, smart, measured leader in the Army, very experienced in combat, and he'll make the right decision on how to dispose of this.

HANNITY: Admiral, let me ask you, though -- the White House repeatedly said that he served with honor and distinction. His own platoon mates said over and over again that was not the case, that he was deserted, that he left on his own, that they heard radio transmissions that he sought out the Taliban.

KIRBY: Right.

HANNITY: It's reported as many as six platoon members died searching for him. I talked to the parents of one soldier that died in the search for him last night on this program.

KIRBY: Right.

HANNITY: How do you reconcile that, though? Why would the White House repeatedly say something that the people who knew him best say is not true?

KIRBY: Well, I can't speak for what others said about the characterization of his service. I think it was couched more in terms of the -- you know, volunteer nature of being in the military in general, particularly at a time of war. But when we talk about specifically characterizing his service in Afghanistan -- and this is what many of his fellow troops are concerned about -- that is what General Milley is working through. That's what the investigation looked at in terms of the circumstances surrounding how he left that base.

General Dahl did a very thorough job. He came up with some findings - - I can't talk about them right now, obviously -- about how he came to leave that base. Now it's going to be up to General Milley to determine how to dispose of the case from a judicial perspective.

HANNITY: What do you make of today's news that of the five, the Taliban five, one has now returned back to the battlefield, one has now returned to terror? What does that say about the decision making of the White House releasing somebody for Bowe Bergdahl who now potentially is going to be out there killing soldiers or innocent people?

KIRBY: Well, let me cut at this from a couple of directions. First of all, we take all allegations of re-engagement very, very seriously.  There's different ways of, you know, considering re-engagement. It doesn't necessarily mean return to the battlefield. Doesn't matter. We take it all seriously.

We have a good security partnership with the government of Qatar.  They have provided assurances. And I can tell you that we are comfortable at the Defense Department that we can mitigate any threat that could be posed by any one of these individuals in terms of terrorist activity.  Again, I can't talk about the details. I can tell you we're very comfortable, though, that we can mitigate that threat.

Now to the larger point of your question about the trade with Sergeant Bergdahl. I'll tell you, we still stand by this decision as being the right decision. It's a powerful message to our troops and our families that we're going to -- we're not going to leave you behind. And it doesn't matter how you came to be missing. We'll deal with that later, and right now, General Milley is dealing with that. We're going to make sure we can get you home.

HANNITY: All right, let me -- let me ask this. The administration -- I had parents on. They lost their son who was killed in the search for Bowe Bergdahl. They were on this program last night. And they claim the administration and the military has not been transparent with them. They want answers. What do you say to those parents tonight?

KIRBY: Well, first of all, our thoughts and prayers go out to them, and our deepest condolences. As a father myself, I can't imagine the sense of grief that they're suffering right now. And I can tell you that if there's more answers they need or more contact they need, then we'll do whatever we can and we'll reach out and we'll try to support in any way possible.

I can't talk, again, about the specifics of the case and his disappearance as General Milley is working his way through that. But I can tell that family and any other family that we take that obligation very, very seriously to support and care for them, and we will.

HANNITY: All right, let me -- let me ask this question because this - - this report was completed, we're told, in October. Can you tell me with any certainty that General -- why has he not made the decision, General Milley? And how do you know that the charge sheet has not been delivered to Bergdahl's lawyer?

KIRBY: OK. Well, General Milley only got the investigation right around Christmastime, in fact, right before the holidays. So he's only had it in his hands for a month.

HANNITY: It was finished in October.

KIRBY: It was finished in October, but there had to be a series of evaluations of the report itself. Once a report's done in the military, it doesn't just get right handed over. It has to be reviewed by the chain of command, and it was. So it took a little while to work its way to General Milley.

And it wasn't even an automatic decision that it would go to General Milley. One of the decisions that the Army had to make when General Dahl finished that investigation was, OK, now what do we do with it? And they had to think that through. They thought it through and said, Well, we need to give it to a four-star Army general to figure out what judicial process is the right way ahead. And that's what they've done.

He's had it for a month. It's about a 2,000-page investigation, Sean.  It's very big.

HANNITY: All right...

KIRBY: He's working through it right now. I can tell you he's working very hard on it. And we'll get there.

HANNITY: Let's talk about the legal definition, the Uniform Code of Military Justice. How do you define desertion? And what are the options that General Milley will have?

KIRBY: Well, let's not jump to a conclusion that he's going to be charged with desertion, but putting that aside...

HANNITY: The rest of his platoon mates say that he did!

KIRBY: I understand that. And look, I understand there's -- a lot of people have already made up their mind about Sergeant Bergdahl, but the only mind that matters right now is General Milley's mind, and I can tell you he has not made up his mind.

But let's put that aside for a second. Desertion exists on several levels, and it's all tied to intent. What caused the individual to desert their post, to leave their comrades during a time of war? And the intent matters here, what was in the individual's mind as they left. Desertion is a very serious charge, no matter what the intent is, but there's various levels of that. And again, those are the kinds of things that General Milley is going to have to work through.

HANNITY: Isn't this the type of thing, though, where the lawyer for Bowe Bergdahl could have coached his client and given him an excuse? If you're talking about intentions of somebody, you can't prove what somebody's intent is. Don't you have to put the pieces of the puzzle together differently? Because he could say anything -- Oh, I thought I was on a peace mission. Oh, I thought my commander wanted me to do this. Oh, I don't remember, I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In other words, it seems that they can make any excuse if the definition is by intent.

KIRBY: Well, I don't know what communications he's had with his lawyer, and I wouldn't speak to that. What I can tell you is that Sergeant Bergdahl was interviewed for the Dahl investigation, that he was very cooperative in that interview and was very open about what happened. I can't talk about the details, of course, but I can tell you that General Dahl was very confident in the testimony he received from Sergeant Bergdahl that it was complete and thorough.

HANNITY: Rear Admiral Kirby, thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

KIRBY: Thank you.

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