A travesty of justice occurred on Friday. A deserter with blood on his heels will walk free, leaving dead and maimed Americans in his wake, because of a bully’s pulpit and a weak man’s bench and gavel. The miscarriage results from a president who tweets too much and a judge who discerns too little.
Candidate Trump tweeted some harsh things about the consequences he believed deserter Bowe Bergdahl should face. Among other things, Trump called Bergdahl a “dirty rotten traitor” and a “no good traitor who should have been executed.”
Commentators expressed concern at the time about inappropriate command influence prejudicing military proceedings. Military commanders are not supposed to twist subordinate arms about military justice, not even the Commander in Chief. But, candidates are not commanders. Yet.
Still, based on Trump’s angry blasts, Bergdahl’s lawyers sought a pardon or commuta tion from President Obama. They also sought a dismissal or other leniency from authorities presiding over the court martial. They were turned away in both instances. The presiding judge announced that he had not been influenced by Trump’s public outbursts. In any event, Trump had no command authority when he tweeted. The case continued.
After Bergdahl pled guilty, however, reporters challenged Trump about his pre-election tweets, asking if he had fatally tainted the prosecution. As National Review’s Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy points out, the only reasonable response for the seated Commander in Chief to offer is “No comment.” Trump needlessly volunteered to the effect: “People heard what I said.”
Commentators again tutted that Trump was renewing his previous efforts at interference by publicly endorsing his prior thinking. But this time, he did it as president and Commander in Chief. Therefore, he put unlawful pressure on the military and its court martial system. The New York Times reported that the JAG…