U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl found himself in front of a military judge today for a pretrial hearing, and all because of Donald Trump. Bergdahl’s legal defense team brought their client before the court to argue that he cannot get a fair trial in his desertion trial due to repeated defamatory comments made by Trump during the contentious 2016 campaign season. The motion argued Monday was filed before Trump was inaugurated, and it directly referenced the former reality TV star-turned POTUS calling Bowe Bergdahl a “traitor.” The Bergdahl defense wants the charges against their client dismissed.
Bowe Bergdahl Lawyers Likely to Cite Trump in His Defense – Fox Nation https://t.co/wnd1phRPEW
— NoTolerance???????? (@RevkahJC) February 14, 2017
As CNN reports, the Bowe Bergdahl defense team, spearheaded by Eugene Fidell, attempted to play a lengthy video of Donald Trump commenting about Bergdahl during his campaign. The judge in the case, Army Judge Col. Jeffery R. Nance, refused to allow Bergdahl’s defense to play the entire, nearly half-hour long, compilation of Trump repeatedly insulting Bowe on the campaign trail. However, the defense team was allowed to play five minutes of their tape.
After watching the video, Judge Nance admitted that it contained “disturbing material.” However, he did not issue a ruling on the defense’s motion to dismiss. That is expected to be handed down at a later time.
According to Bowe Bergdahl’s lawyers, the statement made by Trump while he was still a candidate for POTUS are “prejudicial.” Because he is now the commander in chief, those campaign comments constitute “unlawful command influence,” which will make a fair military trial for Bowe Bergdahl an impossibility.
“Trump’s statements are prejudicial to Sergeant Bergdahl’s right to a fair trial.”
NBC News reports that during the five minutes of Trump video playing at today’s preliminary hearing, defendant Bowe Bergdahl was visibly agitated by the content of that the judge later referred to as “disturbing.”
— A to Z (@loves2corgis) February 13, 2017
@Independent …should be have said hero instead??
— Mars Attack ! (@Einsteinrevisit) February 13, 2017
— MarysGotClass (@MarysGotClass) February 13, 2017
Why is he still holding rank as E5/Sergeant after he deserted his post & went AWOL?
— Marie (@MarieLeff) February 13, 2017
Throughout the duration of the video, Trump could be heard repeatedly referring to Bergdahl as a “no-good traitor” and other similar insults. In the courtroom, the defendant was seen frequently looking away from the monitor. Reportedly, by the end of the five-minute screening, Bowe Bergdahl could be seen visibly clenching his jaw.
A member of his defense even stood and patted the soldier’s shoulder and mouthed “He’s fine” to the rest of the legal team during the ordeal.
Bowe Bergdahl is accused of walking away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009. The military has charged him with desertion and “misbehavior before the enemy” for his alleged actions, which resulted in him being a captive of the Taliban for half a decade.
If he is convicted on the charges, Bergdahl could spend the rest of his life in a military prison.
Bowe Bergdahl was released from captivity in a controversial 2014 prisoner swap. Spearheaded by the Obama administration, the former President traded Bergdahl’s freedom for five members of the Taliban that the U.S. was holding at the controversial Guantanamo Bay facility.
Bowe Bergdahl is a traitor and deserter, & deserves prosecution to the full extent of military law. Gen. Washington would have had him shot pic.twitter.com/hIQQWd4hTM
— Concerned American (@HensleywkAo) February 13, 2017
After Barack Obama and his administration brokered Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom in exchange for Taliban combatants, the ex-POTUS found himself under fire by the House Armed Services Committee. The committee accused Obama of violating federal law by circumventing Congress when negotiating and following through with prisoner exchange. Obama defended himself by touting the release of Bowe Bergdahl.
“We still get an American solider back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop.”
Current POTUS Trump disagreed with Obama’s action, or at least he claimed to over the course of his campaign. He frequently disparaged both Bergdahl and the actions the Obama administration took to end his five-year captivity.
Prosecutors in the Bergdahl case argue that Trump’s words were “campaign rhetoric,” not unlawful command influence as alleged by Bowe Bergdahl’s defense lawyers.
“These comments are clearly intended to try to attack a political opponent for political gain.”
However, according to Bergdahl’s lawyers, Trump did far more than just criticize their client. Donald Trump also promised to personally review the Bowe Bergdahl case if he felt that a ruling in the case was “too light.” The remarks were made at a December 2015 rally, and the then-candidate’s words were played for the court during today’s hearing.
Bergdahl’s defense team claimed that because Trump has followed through on other campaign threats, they and their client want Trump’s campaign words against Bowe Bergdahl taken seriously.
On the campaign trail, Trump referenced Bergdahl in at least 40 instances; he has also tweeted about the accused Army deserter at least 15 times since 2014.
Prior to Obama vacating office, there had been reports that the pardon-happy former POTUS might also issue a presidential pardon for Bergdahl, particularly considering that Obama brokered his freedom from the Taliban. However, the pardon was never issued.
Pending his April 18 trial, Bowe Bergdahl has been doing desk work for the Army in Texas; the Trump team hasn’t yet commented on today’s hearing.
[Featured Image by U.S. Army/File/AP Images]