Attorneys for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl want to ask potential jurors in a court-martial for their views on President Trump and whether they voted for him, according to news reports Wednesday.
At a pretrial hearing Wednesday, Berdahl's lawyers submitted the questions to the judge in the case, out of concern that jurors may be swayed by negative comments Trump made in the presidential campaign about the soldier.
"The principal issue has to do with ensuring we are able to identify people who have been nominated to be on the court-martial panel — the jury — who are not in a position to render an impartial judgment," said Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl's lead attorney, as first reported by Stars and Stripes. "Key to that is the whole set of issues surrounding President Trump's outrageous comments throughout the course of his successful campaign for the White House."
Bergdahl walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban, who held him for almost five years before releasing him. He was charged in 2015 with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, the latter of which carries a potential life imprisonment sentence. Bergdahl has yet to enter a plea to the charges.
During the campaign, Trump called Bergdahl a "dirty, rotten traitor" and criticized former President Barack Obama's decision to exchange five Guantanamo Bay detainees for the soldier's freedom.
The judge in Bergdahl's case, Army Col. Jeffery Nance, called Trump's statements "disturbing" and potentially "problematic." But, according to Stars and Stripes, Nance declined to dismiss the case over them, instead allowing defense attorneys to ask prospective jurors questions about potential influence the president's comments might have on them.
Prosecutors argued some of the questions submitted by Bergdahl's lawyers went too far and should not ask about personal politics.
Nance said he would decide which questions he would permit before the end of next week.