RALEIGH, N.C. — A military court will weigh the real-world consequences of President Trump’s fiery rhetoric as Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl argues he can’t get a fair trial under his new commander in chief.

Minutes into the Republican president’s term, lawyers for Bergdahl cited Trump’s scathing criticism in a request to dismiss charges that Bergdahl endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan. The motion filed Friday argues Trump violated his due process rights by repeatedly calling him a traitor and suggesting ways he could be punished.

The motion noted more than 40 instances of Trump’s criticism at public appearances and in interviews through August 2016.

“Remember the old days? A deserter, what happened?” Trump said while campaigning in July before pantomiming pulling a trigger and adding: “Bang.”

Trump’s comments take on new importance now that he is commander in chief. Legal scholar Rachel VanLandingham said she thinks it will be hard for potential jurors and others involved in the case to ignore what Trump has said because of the sheer repetition.

“Ingrained in military culture is the desire to serve and follow commanders’ orders, and that what commanders say is right,” said VanLandingham, a former Air Force lawyer who teaches at Southwestern Law School in California. “And so that applies to the ultimate commander in chief. … They were made time after time after time, and I do think they are seared into the military psyche.”

Bergdahl’s trial is scheduled for April at Fort Bragg on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Bergdahl has said he walked off his post in 2009 to cause an alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

He was held captive by the Taliban for five years. The Obama administration’s decision in May 2014 to exchange Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners prompted some Republicans to accuse Obama of jeopardizing the nation’s safety.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.