Military judge in Bergdahl case worries about Trump’s impact
FORT BRAGG, N.C.
The judge deciding Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s punishment said Monday he is concerned that President Donald Trump’s comments about the case could impact the public’s perception of the military justice system.
Sentencing was set to begin Monday for Bergdahl on charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009. But the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, instead heard last-minute arguments by defense attorneys that recent comments by Trump are preventing a fair proceeding. Bergdahl faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Nance allowed the attorneys to question him about whether he was swayed by Trump’s comments. Nance said he wasn’t aware of the comments beyond what was in the legal motions. Nance said he plans to retire as a colonel in about a year and isn’t motivated by pleasing commanders to win a future promotion.
“I don’t have any doubt whatsoever that I can be fair and impartial in the sentencing in this matter,” Nance said.
But he had stern words and pointed questions for prosecutors about what effect Trump’s comments would have on public perception of the case. He indicated he would issue a written ruling later on the defense request to have the case thrown out over Trump’s comments.
While campaigning, Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” who deserved to be executed by firing squad or thrown out of a plane without a parachute.