Judge Army Col. Jeffery Nance has tossed out arguments from Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s defense team that President Donald Trump’s harsh comments have prevented Bergdahl from receiving a fair trial.
According to Bergdahl’s lawyers, Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail ruined the ability of potential jurors to assess the case impartially, which in effect violates Bergdahl’s due-process rights, but Nance wasn’t having any of it, the Associated Press reports.
Instead, Nance said that while Trump’s comments calling Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” were “disturbing and disappointing,” they did not amount to unlawful command influence. This means that the trial will proceed in April as scheduled.
During the campaign, Trump pantomimed a firing squad taking Bergdahl out.
However, the fact remains that the rhetoric was both aggressive and stated repeatedly while Trump was on the campaign trail, and so for Nance, this means that Bergdahl’s attorneys should at least have the right to question potential jurors about their opinions on Trump.
A memo submitted by Bergdahl’s team highlighted 40 instances, in which Trump criticized Bergdahl up to August 2016. The memo became especially salient after Bergdahl’s lawyers unsuccessfully tried to ask President Barack Obama for a pardon before Trump took over the White House. At the time, legal experts said there was zero evidence to indicate that Obama would interfere with the military judicial process and grant a pre-conviction pardon.
Bergdahl, who deserted his post in Afghanistan in 2009, is facing charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He was captured by the Taliban and released in May 2014 as part of a prisoner swap, in which five Taliban commanders detained in Guantanamo Bay were released.
He faces a court-martial. He may be sentenced to life in prison.
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