During Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, he referred to 30-year-old Army Sargent Bowe Bergdahl as a “dirty rotten traitor” and “a very bad person” and suggested he be executed by a firing squad. Sargent Bergdahl, faces charges of desertion and endangering troops after he left his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was then held captive by the Taliban for five years.
Bergdahl’s lawyers said their client walked away from his post to warn officers at another base about problems in his unit.
When Donald Trump was inaugurated and assumed the role of commander in chief of the military, Bergdahl’s lawyers argued Trump’s statements could be constituted “unlawful command influence.” That statement is a military term in which references a person who is holding command authority wrongly by taking actions that influence a court case. Bergdahls’ lawyer, Eugene Fiddell said, “President Trump’s long vilification of Sergeant Bergdahl raises profound questions for the integrity of the military justice system and, more broadly, the rule of law in our country.”
A military judge ruled the criminal case against Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to continue despite negative comments made by President Donald Trump during his campaign. According to Army Colonel, Jeffery R. Nance, on Trump’s comments being “disturbing and disappointing,” he determined they did not “problematic potential” for the case.
Nance proceeds to call Trump’s commentary troubling, but not exemplifying unlawful command influence nor did they influence the court in a way that would interfere with keeping the trial fair.
Nance added the defense would be allowed wide room to grow in asking about Trump’s comments and advised the defense could again request for the case to be dropped after a jury selection.
Judge Nance pledged “to vigilantly ensure a fair trial,” and ordered both prosecution and defense attorneys to prepare a list of questions for prospective jurors about unlawful command influence and other issues in the Bergdahl case, which all could discuss before jury selection began.
Bergdahl’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, said he would appeal Nance’s ruling to continue the case before the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday.