This week, Army Col. Jeffery Nance ruled that prior comments from Senator
John McCain did not influence the decision to prosecute Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
for his 2009 disappearance from a remote Army base in Afghanistan. The
decision comes following Bergdahl's lawyers' assertion that there
has been institutional pressure and bias to charge Bergdahl after his
2014 rescue from Taliban operatives.
The Hill reports, Judge Nance wrote in his decision that General Robert Abrams
was not unduly influenced by controversial comments that Senator John
McCain made last year to a
Boston Herald reporter. "...Gen. Abrams was not affected by those comments and
did not consider them in making his decision as to the disposition of
the charges against SGT Bergdahl," Nance's decision reads. "In
fact, Gen. Abrams thought the comments were inappropriate and that Sen.
McCain should not have made them."
Nance also ruled that McCain's comments did not constitute "unlawful
command influence." McCain retired from active duty in 1981, but
Bergdahl's team had tried to argue that he continued to influence
Army decisions as head of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "A
reasonable member of the public knowing all the fact and circumstances
would recognize Sen. McCain’s ill-advised statement for just what
they were," Nance writes, "political posturing designed to embarrass
a political opponent (President Obama) and gain some political advantage."
McCain's comments have been a source of much debate in the Bergdahl's
case. Speaking with a reporter last October, he said that, in the event
that Bergdahl was acquitted of his charges, he would use his authority
as head Senate Armed Services Committee to exact some kind of punishment.
"I am not prejudging, O.K., but it is well known that in the searches
for Bergdahl, after—we know now—he deserted, there are allegations
that some American soldiers were killed or wounded, or at the very least
put their lives in danger, searching for what is clearly a deserter. We
need to have a hearing on that," he told the
Because McCain's committee confirms military nominations, Bergdahl's
lawyers had argued that his comments were a veiled threat to the careers
of Army commanders in charge of deciding whether or not to press charges
against Bergdahl—and a violation of Bergdahl's right to a fair
trial. Bergdahl stands accused of desertion and misbehavior before the
enemy. His court-martial has been delayed until February 2017. Attorney
Jordan has commented on McCain’s comments before on this blog, which
can be found here.
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