Last week we looked at the story of the upcoming trial of Bowe Bergdahl and the possibility that it might not even take place. Objections had been raised by the defense citing numerous comments made by President Trump on the campaign trail which they alleged could potentially poison any possible jury pool against the defendant. At the time I expressed skepticism over how well the court might receive this argument and the judge in the case has followed through pretty much as predicted. The motion by the defense has been rejected and Bergdahl will go to trial in April. (The Hill)
A military judge will not dismiss charges against Bowe Bergdahl despite President Trump’s harsh criticism of the Army sergeant during the campaign.
According to The Associated Press, Army Col. Jeffery Nance ruled on Friday that while Trump’s comments were “disturbing and disappointing” they hadn’t prevented the soldier from receiving a fair trial.
Bergdahl’s lawyers have maintained that the case against their client should be dropped in light of Trump’s public remarks. Trump repeatedly blasted Bergdahl during the presidential campaign, labeling him a “traitor.”
That sounds about right. To a certain extent one could almost have sympathy for the complaint because Donald Trump was receiving so much media attention around the nation and the world. With that in mind, it’s reasonable to assume most people would’ve heard the comments. But it’s also worth noting that Trump was still technically acting as a private citizen at that time. He was unable to deliver a message in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief because he had not yet been sworn in.
While it’s true that he was running for the highest office in the nation he was still on par with Hollywood celebrities and business moguls who also had the opportunity to weigh in on the subject with tremendous visibility. It would be impossible to issue some sort of gag order preventing every movie star and pop music icon from offering their own opinions. As things stand now the jury will need to be reminded to disregard any such comments if they did indeed hear them.
This does leave open the question of what happens if President Trump decides to offer more hot takes on the subject now that he is in office. Will he be able to resist? Will someone on his staff be forced to yet again try to take away his phone? If he does come out with another set of tweets describing Bergdahl as a “traitor” or anything else, the defense could raise these objections yet again, possibly obtaining a positive result. I suppose this situation falls into the general basket describing the difference between running for office and being in office. When it comes to issues of innocence and guilt the President will need to learn to restrain himself.