Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was later traded from five high-profile Taliban prisoners in Gitmo, will not face court-martial this year. Fox News reports a judge had decided to delay the start of the court-martial until February 2017:
A military judge decided Tuesday to delay Bergdahl’s trial from August until February to provide time for resolving disputes over the defense team’s access to classified documents.
Bergdahl, now 30, sat attentively in his dress blue formal uniform, his infantry cord looped under the epaulet on his right shoulder, during the brief hearing. The soldier from Hailey, Idaho, faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter charge is relatively rare and carries the potential of life in prison…
A February start would mean the court-martial could make headlines only weeks after the new commander-in-chief is sworn in as president.
The court-martial was expected to begin in December but the move means it will not be news again until after Obama is out of office. Obama has been heavily criticized for the Bergdahl trade. Last December a Republican committee accused the president of ignoring a mandatory 30-day notice to congress before such a prisoner swap can be made. CNN reported at the time:
The Obama administration has claimed that it side-stepped a mandated 30-day congressional notification period out of fear for Bergdahl’s life, and that it had constitutional authority to do so. But the report finds the argument wanting.
The committee slams the the White House’s disregard for congressional oversight as “deeply disturbing” and rejected the administration’s argument that the release of Guantanamo prisoners to secure the release of a captive American soldier was an “extraordinary situation” that justified keeping Congress out of the loop.
Obama seemed to believe the prisoner deal would be a foreign policy win for his administration. He gave a sympathetic welcome at the White House featuring Bergdahl’s parents and saying, “Today, families across America share in the joy that I know you feel.” But a lot of Americans, including Bergdahl’s former platoon-mates didn’t see it that way. President Obama is probably relieved the issue won’t be raised again before he leaves office.