MILITARY JUDGE CALLS TRUMP'S COMMENTS ON BERGDAHL "DISTURBING"
The Bergdahl desertion case is currently up-in-the-air after the former-Sergeant Bergdahl’s defense attorneys argued a fair trial was now impossible due to repeated statements from Donald Trump that labeled their client as a “traitor”. During a pretrial hearing in mid-February 2017, the defense showed a five-minute video compilation of all the times the now-POTUS defamed Bergdahl in front of the public eye while on the campaign trail. After the clips ended – including one of Trump stating he thought Bergdahl should be “thrown from an airplane” – Army Colonel Jeffrey Nance, who is the presiding judge of the case, called the statements “disturbing.”
Trump used Bergdahl as an example in his campaign speeches of America becoming weak, in his perspective. On more than one occasion, he made reference to penalizing Bergdahl with death, noting that he “should have been executed.” Trump also claimed that “Thirty years ago, he [Bergdahl] would have been shot” for desertion; it is not clear to what military law or historical incident Trump was referring.
The defense is using the video footage and its own arguments in an attempt to have the charges thrown out, believing any jury would be prejudiced against Bergdahl due to Trump’s strong influence. Nance was not required to come to any ruling on the matter immediately after reviewing the footage. It could be days or weeks until he decides if the case can move forward. Bergdahl’s court-martial is currently set for April.
Prosecutors are holding that Trump’s words were only rhetoric typical to the campaign trail. One of the prosecutors assigned to the case, Army Major Justine Oshana, noted that jurors could be questioned about any potential influence during jury selection.
After his review, Nance also remarked that Trump’s attitude towards the case was akin to a “black eye” on the military justice system. He also stated that the footage showed Trump “ranting and raving” while discussing Bergdahl. These early statements may suggest that Nance is leaning towards removal of the charges, or at least a different approach to the case.
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