The military judge presiding over the court-martial of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Monday that comments President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail about the soldier were “disturbing,” according to The Hill.
Army Col. Jeffery Nance made the comments at a pre-trial hearing while reviewing footage of Trump on the campaign trail, where he repeatedly called Bergdahl a “traitor” who should be executed. Bergdahl’s lawyers are hoping the case will be dismissed due to “unlawful command influence” that would make it impossible to receive a fair trial.
The defence offered more than 40 instances of Trump publicly criticising Bergdahl at rallies and in interviews.
Bergdahl, 30, is facing charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after he walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009. He was later captured by the Taliban and held prisoner for five years, before he was released in a prisoner swap that was orchestrated by the Obama administration.
“I have grave concerns as to whether Sergeant Bergdahl can receive a fair trial given the beating he has taken over many months from Mr. Trump,” Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s lawyer, told The New York Times in December. “It is really most unfair.”
Military prosecutors dismissed Trump’s comments as nothing more than campaign rhetoric.
“These comments are clearly intended to try to attack a political opponent for political gain,” Army Maj. Justin Oshana said, according to the AP.
“You’re not at all concerned about the statement he made, ‘If I get in we will review his case,'” the judge asked Oshana, “after ranting and raving about no jail time?”
The judge did not rule on the defence’s request Monday, but a written decision is expected at a later date.