Bergdahl lawyers renew efforts to have case tossed over Trump comments
Lawyers for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have filed a last-ditch effort to have the case against him tossed, even after their client pleaded guilty this week.
In a motion dated Tuesday, Bergdahl’s attorneys argue a brief comment from President Trump the day before shows the president still believes the disparaging comments he made on the campaign trail, therefore casting an “impermissible shadow” over upcoming sentencing proceedings.
“His statement, made at a televised press conference that was one of the most salient public events of the day, removes any doubt about whether his campaign comments reflect his current opinion,” they wrote in the motion. “Had they changed, he would have said so.”
Bergdahl, who walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held by the Taliban for five years, pleaded guilty Monday to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Later that day, Trump was asked about Bergdahl at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.
“I can’t comment on Bowe Bergdahl because he’s — as you know, they’re — I guess he’s doing something today, as we know,” Trump responded. “And he’s also — they’re setting up sentencing, so I’m not going to comment on him. But I think people have heard my comments in the past.”
It’s the last sentence, Bergdahl’s lawyers argue, that show Trump’s views are unchanged.
Trump referenced Bergdahl multiple times throughout the campaign, calling him a traitor who should be executed.
For example, at an October 2015 rally, 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,” Trump added.
Earlier this year, Bergdahl’s lawyers tried unsuccessfully to get the case tossed out over Trump’s comments, arguing such statements coming from the commander in chief compromise their client’s right to a fair trial.
But in February, the judge in the court-martial, Col. Jeffery Nance, ruled that while “disturbing and disappointing,” the comments didn’t prejudice the Army’s case against Bergdahl and so there was no reason to dismiss the case. He came to that ruling in part because the comments were made while Trump was a candidate, not commander in chief.
A presentencing trial is slated to begin Monday at Fort Bragg, N.C. Bergdahl entered his plea without a deal from the prosecution for a lenient sentence. He faces a potential maximum sentence of life in prison.
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