U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner of war who is accused of
endangering comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan, is asking President
Barack Obama to pardon him before leaving office.
White House and Justice Department officials said on Saturday that Bergdahl had
submitted copies of the clemency request seeking leniency.
If granted by Obama, it would allow Bergdahl to avert a military trial scheduled for April
where he will face charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The
misbehavior charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
If the pardon isn’t granted, Bergdahl’s defense team said it would expand its legal
strategy to the new administration by filing a motion arguing President-elect Donald
Trump violated Bergdahl’s due process rights with public comments about the case.
The pardon request to Obama, first reported by the New York Times, was confirmed
by White House and Justice Department officials who weren’t authorized to discuss
the matter by name.
Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held
captive by the Taliban and its allies for five years.
The Obama administration’s decision in May 2014 to exchange him for five Taliban
prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, prompted criticism that included some
Republicans accusing Obama of jeopardizing nation’s safety.
Bergdahl, who faces trial at Fort Bragg, has said he walked off his post in Afghanistan
because he wanted to cause an alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems
with his unit.