Military Appeals Court to Review Bowe Bergdahl Case Amid Unlawful Influence Claims

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl leaves a motions hearing during a lunch break in Fort Bragg, N.C., on Sept. 27, 2017. (AP Photo)
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl leaves a motions hearing during a lunch break in Fort Bragg, N.C., on Sept. 27, 2017. (AP Photo)

This article by Haley Britzky originally appeared on Task & Purpose, a digital news and culture publication dedicated to military and veterans issues.

Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl has been granted a review of his case to determine whether tweets and comments made by President Donald Trump irrevocably tainted his original trial and therefore constitute grounds for his sentence to be dismissed.

The order was posted on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces website on Nov. 4, and first reported by Military Times.

Bergdahl's 2017 sentence for deserting his post in Afghanistan in 2009 -- which led to his capture and imprisonment by the Taliban for five years and the controversial exchange of five Guantanamo Bay detainees to get him back -- included a reduction in rank from sergeant to private, a $10,000 fine, and a dishonorable discharge.

Trump has vocally criticized Bergdahl, both as president and before he took office. In March 2015, he said Bergdahl "should face the death penalty for desertion." In April of this year, he criticized President Barack Obama for swapping "five terrorist hostages … for traitor Sgt. Bergdahl."

In July, Bergdahl's attorneys appealed his sentence, arguing that Trump's comments, along with comments made by the late Sen. John McCain, constituted unlawful command influence.

McCain said in 2015 that Bergdahl was "clearly a deserter."

The Army ultimately rejected the appeal, but as Military Times points out, the decision wasn't unanimous. Judge James Ewing wrote in his dissent, "Army prosecutors did not prove without a doubt that unlawful command influence did not taint the proceedings."

There's no set date yet for the Bergdahl's appeals hearing, per Military Times, and Bergdahl's lawyers have 30 days to file their argument. The government will then have 30 days to file a response.

A court date could then come within 20 days after the government's response is filed, Military Times reports.

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