Military judge: Trump comments about Bergdahl 'disturbing'

Military judge: Trump comments about Bergdahl 'disturbing'
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A military judge called President Trump’s campaign comments about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl “disturbing” Monday and questioned whether they could give the military justice system a “black eye.”

The comments came during a pre-trial hearing in Fort Bragg, N.C., where Bergdahl’s lawyers are arguing that the case against their client should be tossed out because Trump's repeated descriptions of Bergdahl as a “traitor” who should be executed compromise his right to a fair trial.

After Bergdahl’s defense team played about 5 minutes of a video showing Trump disparaging Bergdahl on the campaign trail, Army Col. Jeffery Nance, the judge, called the footage “disturbing material,” according to The Associated Press.

Nance did not rule Monday on the defense team’s motion, with a written ruling expected at a later date.

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.

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.

Prosecutors argue the comments do not harm Bergdahl’s trial since they were made before Trump was commander in chief and were clearly campaign rhetoric.

“These comments are clearly intended to try to attack a political opponent for political gain," Army Maj. Justin Oshana, a prosecutor, said Monday, according to the AP.

Oshana also argued that jurors’ exposure to the comments can be addressed with questions during the jury selection process.

But Nance posed the question of whether Trump's remarks would affect the public’s confidence in the military justice system.

"How does that relate to overcoming the black eye to the military justice system ... the view the public might have?” he asked, according to the AP.

Nance took note of clip in the video of Trump promising to review the case if Bergdahl gets a light sentence.

"You're not at all concerned about the statement he made, 'If I get in we will review his case' ... after ranting and raving about no jail time?” the judge asked prosecutors.