American Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl’s charges survived President Obama’s swath of pardons during his last week in office, but they may not survive a month of President Donald Trump.
On Monday, defense attorney’s for Bergdahl played a portion of a 28 minute video showing then-candidate for president, Donald Trump, saying repeatedly that Bergdahl is a “traitor.” A video which presiding judge, Army Col. Jeffery Nance called “disturbing material.”
Bergdahl’s attorneys, led by Eugene Fidell, contend that the charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy should be dropped due to an inability for Bergdahl to receive a fair trial because of Trump’s past comments.
The basis for the dismissal request is that, according to the defense, Trump’s comments constitute “unlawful command influence” over the trial because Donald Trump is now the commander-in-chief of the military. The defense contends that because of his position over the military, his comments may have influenced those deciding the case and the punishment.
The prosecution’s position during Monday’s hearing was that Trump’s comments were made when he was still a private citizen and not the president.
“This was clearly something he said primarily to criticize President [Barack] Obama,” Oshana said, arguing Trump’s words were clearly made to “attack a political opponent for political gain.” The government argued that a review of those who will be seated on the judge panel via voir direwould act as a check to ensure that judges were not biased.
One can only hope that the judges see the insensibility and injudiciousness of not having Bergdahl’s case go through the military court, and that Donald Trump’s comments prior to being president should not be at issue here. A total dismissal of the charges would send shock waves through the military — let alone the country — and set a terrible precedent for deserters.
Bowe Bergdahl walked off his outpost in Afghanistan and the resulting search led to the deaths of six men. Bergdahl met with providential justice for his rash stupidity and immaturity by being held captive by the Taliban for five years, but that doesn’t mean justice has been meted out through a court of law.
Judge Nance did not rule on the dismissal request on Monday. Bergdahl’s trial is set for April 18, 2017. If convicted, he faces a court marshal and a possible lie sentence, which investigating officer Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl has said would be an inappropriate sentence.
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