- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has petitioned the Obama White House for a pardon in hopes of avoiding being tried on charges of desertion and misbehavior during the Donald Trump administration, according to new reports.

Attorneys for the disgraced soldier recently filed clemency applications on his behalf with the White House, Justice Department and the Pentagon, the New York Times reported Friday, citing multiple government officials.

A court-martial slated to start in the spring will determine if Sgt. Bergdahl, 30, should be punished for allegedly deserting his outpost in Afghanistan in 2009. If convicted, he faces the possibility of life imprisonment.

Sgt. Bergdahl’s lead defense lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell, declined to comment the legal team’s efforts when reached by the newspaper prior to publication. If the case is still pending when Mr. Trump is inaugurated next month, however, then Mr. Fidell said he’ll file a motion for dismissal arguing that a fair trial isn’t possible under the next presidential administration.

Mr. Trump repeatedly condemned the soldier while campaigning for the White House, at one point calling him “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.”

“Thirty years ago he would have been shot,” Mr. Trump said during an Oct. 2015 event.

Additionally, Mr. Fidell expressed concerns over statements made by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, who promised to schedule a hearing in the event Sgt. Bergdahl avoids punishment.

“I have grave concerns as to whether Sergeant Bergdahl can receive a fair trial given the beating he has taken over many months from Mr. Trump, who will be commander in chief, as well as Senator McCain’s call for a hearing in case Sergeant Bergdahl is not punished,” Mr. Fidell told the New York Times this week. “It is really most unfair.”

Pres. Barack Obama ignited a firestorm after securing Sgt. Bergdahl’s release in 2014 upon acknowledging that the United States had transferred five high-profile Guantanamo Bay detainees to Qatar in exchange. Several former soldiers later cried foul, and claimed that at least five Americans were killed while conducting search missions after Sgt. Bergdahl went missing in 2009. Those allegations, echoed by Mr. Trump, have since been deemed false by the Pentagon.

Sgt. Bergdahl was held captive for five years by Islamist militants after he left his outpost. An Army sanity board later determined the Army veteran had suffered from a “severe mental disease or defect” during the time he decided to leave his outpost.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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