After Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeatedly smeared Army Sergeant Bowe Berdahl, he may now be called as a witness in his trial.
Bergdahl stands accused of deserting his unit in Afghanistan in 2009 and it’s been a point of focus with Conservatives. According to Bergdahl’s lawyer, Trump is being considered as a witness in Bergdahl’s upcoming court-martial, according to Bloomberg View.
While campaigning during the last few months, the GOP front-runner repeatedly called Bergdahl a “no-good traitor,” a “dirty rotten traitor,” and said he “should have been executed.”
Due to Trump’s inflammatory remarks, Trump could end up on the witness stand when the former Taliban prisoner goes on trial this year.
Bergdahl’s lawyers maintain that Trump has compromised the soldier’s right to a fair and impartial trial considering the hotel magnate’s large platform.
“The First Amendment rules out any effort to prevent Mr. Trump from making these defamatory remarks,” Bergdahl’s lawyers argued in a court filing. “The fact remains, however, that his pattern of doing so, with the full glare of public attention before mass audiences around the country, materially threatens Bergdahl’s right to fair consideration by the convening authority as well as in a court-martial.”
“Mr. Trump and the echo chamber that has amplified his voice beyond all reason have a right to free speech,” Bergdahl’s lawyer Eugene Fidell wrote in his court filing. “Simple fairness demands that SGT Bergdahl at least be able to defend himself by permitting public access in real time to documents that put the lie to the kind of character assassination to which he is being subjected.”
Bloomberg View reports:
Military law experts said that while Trump’s statements may be defamatory, that is not the question at hand. Bergdahl’s lawyers would have to convince the judge that Trump’s comments have harmed Bergdahl’s ability to receive a fair trial.
“The only legal issue here is that Sergeant Bergdahl is constitutionally entitled to an unbiased and impartial jury trial. The question is, will statements like this taint the jury pool,” said Rachel VanLandingham, a former Air Force judge advocate now a professor at Southwestern Law School. “Is this unfair to Bowe Bergdahl what’s going on? Yes. But is it legally unfair?”
That said, it’s not certain that Trump will be called to the stand.
“We’ve made no decision yet on whether to call Mr. Trump as a witness,” his lawyer told Bloomberg. “We continue to monitor his defamatory statements.”
Words have consequences and Trump has used Bergdahl’s case while campaigning. Bergdahl spent five years in captivity after he left his outpost in Afghanistan in 2009. In contrast, the hotel magnate enjoyed multiple deferments in order to avoid serving in the military.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.