Lease this WebApp and get rid of the ads.
Maybe Trump Could Try Saying ‘No Comment’
Mon Oct 30, 2017 6:21pm

The president’s reckless commentary on investigations catches up with him.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump took to riling up his rallies by referring to Bergdahl as a “dirty, rotten traitor.” As the New York Times reported, “he even mimicked the sound of a rifle shot as he pantomimed a firing squad executing” Bergdahl. Of course, Trump was not the commander in chief then. He is now, and last week, at a White House press conference, he was asked whether his previous attacks on Bergdahl had unfairly prejudiced the court-martial against the defendant. There is only one proper answer to that question or, indeed, to any question to the president about the pending case: No comment.

Alas, that answer does not seem to be in the Trump repertoire. While the president declined to opine on what effect his comments may have had, he couldn’t just leave it there. Instead, he compulsively added, “But I think people have heard my comments in the past.” Obviously, there was no need for Trump to remind anyone that people had heard his Bergdahl comments; that’s why the press was asking him about them.

Hence, his latest comment can be interpreted only one way: He wanted to make clear that he stands by his prior condemnatory remarks — as if he were making them again.

“So what?” you say. After all, you figure Bergdahl probably is a dirty, rotten traitor; plus, there is no shortage of Americans besides Trump who would see a firing squad as justice in his case.

But the thing is, you and I and the rest of the peanut gallery are not the commander in chief. We are not the official to whom the military officers processing Bergdahl’s case ultimately answer. We do not get to weigh in on matters such as military promotions, assignments, and career track. Those officers have no reason to care what we think, but they have a great deal of reason to care what the president thinks. They have a motive to please him — to make sure that what the commander in chief says should be done is done.

So, when Trump pops off — when he suggests that Bergdahl is actually guilty of treason, an offense even more heinous than the serious desertion offense actually levied against him — it poses a formal threat to the integrity of the proceedings.

But it gets worse. Here, Trump reaffirmed as president his Bergdahl riffs from campaign rallies despite being on notice that his comments had already jeopardized the prosecution. Shortly after Trump was sworn in, Bergdahl’s lawyer, Yale’s Eugene Fidell, began arguing that the case against his client should be thrown out on the theory that Trump’s remarks constituted “unlawful command influence.” That rule of military justice forbids any official with the mantle of command authority from taking any action (including making any statement) that could influence a military tribunal that is considering a soldier’s case.

As I explained at the time, this motion to dismiss was meritless because candidate Trump was a civilian wholly outside the military chain of command when he made his remarks. In February, after a hotly contested litigation, the judge, Army Colonel Jeffrey R. Nance, denied Bergdahl’s motion on this rationale.

Consequently, all the president had to do to avoid further problems for the prosecution was to avoid further commentary about Bergdahl.

Too much to ask, apparently.

Even though Bergdahl has pleaded guilty, the president’s foolish remark last week prompted Fidell to renew the dismissal motion. Thus, instead of focusing on the damage wrought to our troops by the deserter’s misconduct, Monday’s commencement of Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing was consumed by soundbites from Trump campaign speeches. The defense contends that, even if the guilty plea stands, Bergdahl should be sentenced to no jail time.

Colonel Nance is plainly taking this claim very seriously. Ominously, he explained that when he denied the motion to dismiss back in February, he had reasoned that the “disturbing” campaign rhetoric could be disregarded because Trump was not in a position of command influence. That rationale, he observed, “tend[s] to be eroded when the now-president of the United States adopts those past statements.” The judge indicated that he interprets Trump’s remarks last week as the equivalent of saying, “I shouldn’t comment on that, but I think everyone knows what I think on Bowe Bergdahl.”

Hard to argue with that.

To summarize, the president spoke about Bergdahl’s case when he had every reason to know that doing so could sabotage the prosecution. In so speaking, he eviscerated the court’s rationale for having earlier ruled in the government’s favor. Colonel Nance has adjourned the sentencing proceedings until Wednesday in order to consider whether Trump’s remarks warrant granting Bergdahl’s motion for a sentence of minimal, if any, imprisonment.

If the “dirty, rotten traitor” gets a pass, the president will have only himself to blame.

Read more at:

    • That is pretty darn obvious. ~ Eleanor, Mon Oct 30 8:41pm
      But you might as well tell Bill Clinton to behave himself around women or tell his wife to stop blaming others for losing the election. Just my opinion, of course.
    • National Review again! ~ TW, Mon Oct 30 7:38pm
      You’d better be careful! Some of that conservatism is going to rub off on you. 😆
  • Click here to receive daily updates