Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who faces court-martial for desertion after walking away from his base in Afghanistan and spending five years in militant captivity, sought and was denied a pardon by President Obama before he left office, according to Bergdahl’s attorney Eugene Fidell.

The effort was disclosed Friday after Berghdahl’s legal team filed a new motion to dismiss the Army’s case against their client, citing past harsh rhetoric against Bergdahl by newly sworn-in President Donald Trump.

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” to his country and suggested that if he had acted the way he did 25 or 50 years ago, Bergdahl would have been executed by the military. In reality, the United States has executed an accused deserter only once since the Civil War, and not at all since World War II.

Bergdahl’s legal team said Trump’s comments deny their client “the due process right to a fair trial” and constitute apparent unlawful command influence, in which a senior U.S. official meddles in a military justice case while seeking a specific outcome.

“We had hoped that (Obama) would grant a pardon. He didn’t,” said Fidell, adding that the issue is a “highly discretionary matter” for a president.

Obama issued 1,715 commutations to federal prisoners during his administration, surpassing the combined total of his 12 predecessors, and an additional 212 pardons.

Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and misbehavior for the enemy for leaving his patrol base in eastern Afghanistan in 2009.


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