Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner of war held captive by the Taliban for five years and freed in a 2014 prisoner swap, has formally asked President Obama for a pardon before Donald Trump takes over as President in January.
Trump has called Bergdahl a “no-good traitor who should have been executed” and would likely oppose a pardon.
The request comes after Bergdahl’s trial was postponed for the second time as Department of Defense officials review new reams of evidence. His trial is now slated to begin May 15, 2017.
Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in a general court-martial, which is the highest form of court-martial the military can convene. His sentence could be as high as life in prison.
Request for pardon comes after years of evidence-gathering
On June 30, 2009, Bergdahl walked off of his platoon’s patrol base in Paktika province, Afghanistan, and was quickly captured by the Taliban. He was tortured and held captive for five years by the Haqqani network, a group that works with the Taliban and was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Bergdahl’s legal team sent a clemency application to the White House, the Justice Department and the Pentagon, according to officials at those institutions. In the request, he asked for a pre-emprive pardon for walking off the base.
In 2014, when he was released, President Obama stood alongside his parents at the White House. National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice said he had served with “honor and distinction.” After it was discovered that Bergdahl had left the base of his own accord, no more such praise was lavished on him.
Soldiers who served with Bergdahl later accused him of desertion and trying to join the Taliban, and attributed deaths and injuries to the subsequent rescue efforts.
It is unclear if President Obama is open to the idea of a pardon.