Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is siding with President Barack Obama when it comes to closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, arguing Wednesday that shutting it down is in the "best interest" of the nation.
"Do we really need to keep this place open for 50 remaining detainees who we can easily move to a secure facility in the United States?" Powell asked on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports."
"I think it's in the best interest in the nation and it's in the best interest in our moral authority around the world," he added.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday said that Republicans are taking legal steps to prevent the White House from closing the U.S. prison facility in Cuba — a plan announced by the administration Tuesday.
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Lawmakers have the votes to block Obama's proposal in Congress and enough votes to override any veto, Ryan told reporters. Separately, the Wisconsin Republican said the GOP is "preparing our legal challenge" to ensure the prison remains open and detainees aren't moved to the U.S.
Paul Ryan: Obama's Gitmo Plan Is Against the LawFeb. 24, 201600:57
"These detainees cannot come to American soil," Ryan warned.
Obama vowed to close Guantanamo during his 2008 campaign for the presidency, and said that the Cuba detention center, also known as Gitmo, is a recruitment tool for terrorism worldwide and opposed by some allies.
Powell, who was secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said that he isn't swayed by the Republican argument and that federal courts in the U.S. have been effectively prosecuting suspected terrorists.
"You put a terrorist before a jury of Americans who are worried about their security, and I’m not worried about them getting off on some plea deal," Powell said. "They’re going to get hammered, and they have been hammered."
Guantanamo Bay Detainees, By the NumbersFeb. 23, 201601:16
Under Obama's plan, roughly 35 of the 91 current prisoners will be transferred to other countries in the coming months, leaving up to 60 detainees who are either facing trial by military commission or have been determined to be too dangerous to release but are not facing charges.
Those detainees would be relocated to a U.S. facility.