- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Calls have emerged for President Obama to reject Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s petition for a pardon after recent news reports suggested the soldier is attempting to avoid being tried for desertion under the looming Donald Trump administration.

Sgt. Bergdahl has been charged with desertion and misbehavior as a result of abandoning his outpost in Afghanistan in 2009. Despite being held captive by extremists for more than half a decade, the 30-year-old soldier risks the possibility of life imprisonment pending the outcome of an imminent military trial.

That court-martial is currently slated to start in the spring, but it could be cancelled altogether if Mr. Obama pardons the soldier prior to exiting the White House next month. Government sources told The New York Times last week that Sgt. Bergdahl has begun petitioning the current president for a pardon, and his attorney said he’ll ask for the case to be dismissed if his client isn’t given clemency before Mr. Trump takes office.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Republican, issued a statement Tuesday morning saying Mr. Obama should reject Sgt. Bergdahl’s request for a pardon because his 2009 disappearance “may have led to the deaths of several American soldiers.”

“It has been seven years since Sgt. Bergdahl chose to abandon his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan during a time of war,” Mr. Buchanan said. “He should be court-martialed and held accountable.”

The solder’s decision to seek a pardon from Mr. Obama is a “desperate attempt” by him and his defense team, said retired U.S. Army Sgt. Matt Vierkant, the former leader of Sgt. Bergdahl’s platoon, during a Monday appearance on Fox News earlier this week.

“The bottom line is he has to be accountable for his actions,” he said during a Monday appearance on the program “Fox & Friends.” “It’s nobody’s fault but his that he was put in that position, so he has nobody to blame but himself. And it’s unfortunate that he was a prisoner for five years, but it’s his own fault.”

According to Sgt. Bergdahl’s defense attorney, however, a fair trial won’t be possible under Mr. Trump’s administration. The president-elect routinely chastised the soldier while campaigning for the White House, and 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 October 2015 event.

Sgt. Vierkant told Fox News that the president-elect was simply expressing a personal opinion when he called for Sgt. Bergdahl’s execution.

“I believe we should let the military be professionals who conduct themselves in a professional manner and hold the trial, because his opinion isn’t going to affect it any more than my opinion or anyone else,” the platoon leader said.

Mr. Trump, Sgt. Vierkant and Mr. Buchanan have each suggested that several American servicemembers lost their lives while searching for Sgt. Bergdahl when he disappeared in 2009. Military investigators and the secretary of Defense have disputed that finding, however, and said previously that no evidence has tied Sgt. Bergdahl’s disappearance with any deaths.

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