Prosecutors: Trump calling Bergdahl 'traitor' doesn't compromise fair trial

Prosecutors: Trump calling Bergdahl 'traitor' doesn't compromise fair trial
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President Trump’s disparaging comments about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl don’t compromise his right to a fair trial, prosecutors argued in a court filing.

Lawyers for Berghdal, who is facing charges after walking away from his post in Afghanistan and being captured by the Taliban, had sought to have the case dismissed over comments made by now-President Trump on the campaign trail.

Prosecutors countered that such comments were made before Trump was commander in chief and were clearly campaign rhetoric.


“The defense once again seeks an unprecedented remedy, the dismissal of charges on the basis of comments by a private citizen without any connection to the military,” military prosecutors wrote in the filing dated Wednesday and released online by Bergdahl’s lawyers Monday.

“Given the context of the statements, the status of President Trump at the time they were made, and their relative infrequency compared to the much larger coverage of the 2016 election, no objective observer would harbor any concerns about the fairness of the proceedings.”

Bergdahl is set to face a court-martial in April on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009. He was captured by the Taliban and held until a 2014 prisoner swap. The latter charge carries the potential sentence of life in prison.

Throughout the campaign, Trump referenced Bergdahl multiple times as he sought to make his case that the U.S. has become weak militarily.

For example, at a rally in October 2015, Trump said, "We're tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who's a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed."

“Thirty years ago, he would have been shot,” he added.

In a motion filed on Inauguration Day, Bergdahl’s defense lawyers listed 65 times that Trump called Bergdahl a traitor, said he should be executed or claimed that troops had died while looking for him; the Army has never directly linked any deaths to the hunt for Bergdahl.

“President Trump transformed his rallies into a televised traveling lynch mob,” the defense wrote. “Justice cannot be done and public confidence in military justice cannot be maintained under these circumstances.”

But prosecutors argued in their response that the comments were clearly targeting President Obama since they often included references to “the five-for-one president,” meaning Obama's decision to trade five Taliban captives for Bergdahl.

“With regards to Mr. Trump’s comments that Sgt. Bergdahl is a ‘traitor’ or committed ‘treason,’ such comments were clearly intended to be understood by their colloquial meaning,” they add.

With regard to Trump’s comments about executing Bergdahl, prosecutors wrote that observers would know the crimes Bergdahl is accused of aren’t capital offenses.

“It strains credulity to believe that Mr. Trump was seriously suggesting that Sgt. Bergdahl should be thrown out of an airplane,” they said.

Prosecutors also accused the defense of inflating the importance of Bergdahl to Trump’s rallies.

“In an effort to exaggerate the purported impact of Mr. Trump’s statements, they have also created a 28-minute video compilation,” prosecutors wrote. “The video clips that the defense has selectively spliced together do not even constitute a prominent feature of any of Mr. Trump’s speeches, which total more than 46 hours, let alone a prominent feature of his campaign.”