- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who spent more than four years as a prisoner-of-war after walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009, wants a federal court to throw out his desertion conviction because of comments made by former President Trump and new information about the judge who presided over his court-martial.

Bergdahl‘s lawyers recently filed a petition in Washington that also accused the late Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, of using his influence on Capitol Hill to prejudice the case against him. The filing is one of the first post-election legal challenges to Mr. Trump’s many contentious forays into the military justice system during his time in office.

“The scandalous meddling in a specific case by leaders of the political branches — one of whom was commander in chief of the armed forces — would never be tolerated if the proceeding had been a criminal prosecution in this or any other federal district court and should not be tolerated in a court-martial,” Bergdahl‘s lawyers wrote in the petition.

Bergdahl was finally freed by Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents as part of a controversial prisoner exchange during the 2016 presidential election. Then-candidate Trump excoriated the deal on the campaign trail and frequently referred to Bergdahl as a “traitor” who should have “been executed.”

McCain, who spent more than five years as a POW during the Vietnam War, also criticized the Obama administration’s deal that resulted in the release of five Taliban prisoners who had been held at Guantanamo. President Obama and his aides faced subsequent criticism for appearing to praise Bergdahl’s service when the details of his capture — and the price his fellow soldiers paid trying to locate him — came to light.

Bergdahl‘s latest legal petition accuses McCain of threatening to hold Senate hearings if the Army court-martial case didn’t result in punishment being handed down. Mr. McCain said at the time he was happy Bergdahl had been freed by criticized the prisoner exchange deal approved by Mr. Obama, warning it could make other U.S. servicemen and women vulnerable.

The federal suit also claims retired Col. Jeffrey Nance, an Army judge who oversaw Bergdahl’s court-martial, had applied to the Department of Justice for a job as an immigration judge during the trial.

“Hiring decisions for immigration judges are discretionary and appointments are made personally by the attorney general,” Bergdahl‘s lawyers wrote. “The attorney general is a member of the Cabinet which serves at the pleasure of the president.”

After Bergdahl‘s release, he provided U.S. intelligence officials with a wealth of information that included a much deeper understanding of hostage-taking in the region, his lawyers said. However, the desertion conviction meant a loss of all rank and a $10,000 fine. It also meant Bergdahl wouldn’t receive any benefits as a result of his military service.

Bergdahl‘s lawyers want the federal court to throw out the case, saying the government denied him his constitutional right to a fair trial. Federal attorneys have not yet responded to the court filing.

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