Despite numerous times where then-candidate Trump called Bowe Bergdahl a “traitor,” he nonetheless will go to trial for endangering his fellow service-members by deserting his post in 2009.
Bergdahl’s defense argued that Trump’s comments on the campaign trail violated his right to due process of law, that his inflammatory rhetoric would taint the impartiality of the juror pool. The defense cited 40 instances of Trump criticizing Bergdahl through August 2016 alone. Allegedly, the jurors would have a hard time purging from their minds the Commander in Chief’s comments during the trial period.
However, the judge presiding over the case, Army Col. Jeffery Nance, held that such commentary, though “problematic,” and “disturbing and disappointing,” did not violate his rights of due process, according to the Associated Press.
“The accused was merely the foil for delivering that political message,” Nance wrote. “All reasonable members of the public and potential panel members will know that was what he was doing and will not allow the rhetoric to affect their impartiality.”
Nance did say, however, that he would allow defense attorneys wide leeway to question potential jurors about Trump. He said they can renew their request to dismiss the charges once they’ve sought to find out how Trump’s comments affected potential jurors.
Nance wrote: “We have a man who eventually became President of the United States and Commander in Chief of all the armed forces making conclusive and disparaging comments, while campaigning for election, about a soldier facing potential court-martial. … The Court recognizes the problematic potential created by these facts.”
On the campaign trail, Trump made several inflammatory accusations:
“We’re tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed,” Trump said in October 2015.
“Thirty years ago, he would have been shot,” he added.
However, the comments were made before Trump was sworn in as Commander in Chief, which the prosecutors argue does not violate Bergdahl’s due process rights. The judge agreed.
Bergdahl will be placed on trial in April for deserting his post. If convicted, he could face a life sentence in prison.