No, Trump didn’t affect the Bergdahl sentence

| November 4, 2017

The social media and the media is chocked full of accusations from the Left and the “Never Trump” crowd that Bergdahl didn’t get any jail time because of President Trump’s ill-considered comments during the Presidential campaign. Bergdahl’s lawyers even blamed Trump for the decision.

For example, Peter Bergen, CNN analyst writes;

Finally, the judge said he would also weigh prejudicial statements made by President Trump about the case as a mitigating factor. The military is very sensitive to the issue of undue “command influence” in the military justice system.

When he was a candidate, Trump often called Bergdahl a traitor who should be executed, and just last month when he was asked about Bergdahl, the commander in chief said, “I think people have heard my comments in the past.”

Even though his own comments proved to be a factor in the judge giving Bergdahl leniency, Trump didn’t hold back in criticizing the decision Friday. On Twitter, Trump said the judge’s decision is “a complete disgrace to our Country and to our Military.”

The New York Times adds;

Ironically, Mr. Trump’s comments may have contributed to the decision not to sentence him to prison. After Mr. Trump seemed last month to endorse his harsh criticism from the campaign trail, Colonel Nance ruled that he would consider the comments as mitigating evidence at sentencing.

With the sentence still facing review by General Abrams and military appellate judges, Mr. Trump’s post-verdict comments on Twitter seemed to bolster efforts by the defense to have the sentence thrown out on appeal, some military law experts said, on the grounds that the president had unlawfully influenced the case.

I guess everyone is forgetting that the investigating officer, Major General Kenneth Dahl recommended that Bergdahl avoid jail time, over two years ago, according to CNN’s own reportage;

Though Bergdahl was not duty-bound to comply with the investigation, he did so and submitted to a day and a half interview. Bergdahl did not exercise his right to silence at the start of the interview, Dahl said.

Dahl said he didn’t “believe there is a jail sentence at the end of this process.”

So Colonel Jeffrey Nance was only conceding to the investigating officer’s recommendations when he left a jail sentence out. That makes more sense to me than a watered-down sentence because of a presidential candidate’s comments during a political campaign.

By the way, Marine Robert R. Garwood was convicted of collaborating with the North Vietnamese and he didn’t serve any jail time either after his 1981 conviction.

Category: Army News

Comments (47)

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  1. Sapper3307 says:

    He is trying to get his POW/MIA medal now. Its coc needs to flag his ********(not frag) asap.

    • Hondo says:

      I wouldn’t hold out much hope for Bergdahl prevailing on that score. The POW Medal criteria includes the requirement for honorable behavior while a POW.

      As I recall, Bergdahl pleaded guilty to misbehavior before the enemy as well as desertion. Any such misconduct would have been during his captivity. That means he acknowledged NOT having always served honorably while in enemy custody.

      FWIW: of the US military hostages held by Iran during the 1979-1980 Iran Crisis, all but one were later deemed eligible for (and, as I recall, were awarded) the POW medal. The lone exception was an individual who actively collaborated with the Iranians during his captivity. Although the Army apparently wanted to court-martial him, apparently President Reagan ordered othewise; the individual was administratively discharged after his return. For more details, see

    • lily says:

      They should give him a PISS(Prisoner of Stupidity) Medal. Every time a veteran sees him they get to piss on him. (╯︵╰,)

      • desert says:

        This shows why the army is so phucked up! This a.h. is a colonel? he should be busted to private, the freaking what is to keep ANYONE in the military from going over the hill? damned sure isn’t punishment….dirty S.O.B. Judge!! imho

  2. Ex-PH2 says:

    Oh, really, it doesn’t matter whether or not Trump said a word about it, now or in the past. It’s still his fault in the ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ Land of Idiocy that is now the media.

    It’s not Trump’s fault that these twits who pretend to be reporters have short-term memory loss, is it?

  3. 2banana says:

    The US military prosecutor recommended 14 years.

    He personally caused the deaths of six fellow Americans.

    And he basically gets an amazing book deal as punishment.

  4. MrBill says:

    You may be right, Jonn. Then again, the others may be. We’ll never know for sure unless COL Nance spells out his rationale. But yes, maybe Trump’s comments mitigated total forfeitures to partial, for example, and nothing else.

  5. Stacy0311 says:

    He essentially got the same sentence as this dirtbag.

    Except the back pay part. $1000 a month is kind of a light “fine” when he could’ve/should’ve lost it all.

    • Hondo says:

      Yeah. Garwood should have done serious time in Leavenworth, too. Unfortunately, the American public’s “Vietnam fatigue” and the fact that Jimmy “Pardon the Draft Dodgers” Carter was POTUS IMO prevented him from getting what he deserved.

    • 26Limabeans says:

      For some good background reading on Garwood
      get a copy of “Kiss the Boys Goodbye”,
      Monika Jensen-Stevenson 1990.
      ISBN 0-525-24934-6

      • Twist says:

        The book “Why Didn’t You Get Me Out” by Frank Anton is also a good read and Frank talks a lot about Garwood.

  6. Hondo says:

    Hmm. No jail time, and a quite modest fine for desertion during wartime and misbehavior before the enemy. Max punishment for both charges under the UCMJ is death (though the Army chose not to seek the death penalty for either crime). And Bergdahl’s desertion resulted in numerous friendly deaths and injuries while US/friendly forces attempted to locate and recover him – and possibly later as well due to his reported collaboration with the enemy.

    Yeah, I’d say the POTUS’s comments REALLY caused Bergdahl to get an unduly harsh sentence. After all: a clueless fool different POTUS said Bergdahl “served with distinction” – before his guilty plea, of course.

    Sheesh – GMAFB. Bergdahl the Ass got off with a slap on the wrist. He deserved multiple years in Leavenworth.

    • MrBill says:

      His comments as a candidate could have been dismissed as irrelevant; there’s no precedent for the proposition that a private citizen’s comments can be UCI. His reaffirmation of those comments while CinC are of greater concern.

      • Alberich says:

        Judge Nance said he was giving Bergdahl credit for Mr. Trump’s comments (i.e., he was treating them as mitigation). And I’m sure part of his thought process was, “No one will say I was intimidated by Trump if I give a really light sentence.”

        I have a little experience with Judge Nance and his reputation is as a very light sentencer…at least in military discipline cases (he’s supposed to be harsher in sex crime cases). That’s why I always knew the defense was going to go judge-alone whether they pleaded guilty or not.

        Mr. Trump would have better served the country by not commenting on the case until after the sentence was pronounced…and preferably after the convening authority took action. Unfortunately, with the wrong words from the President, Bergdahl could get even more relief for Bergdahl (as you and I have both noted already).

        I gladly voted for Mr. Trump and I don’t regret doing it, but he needs to listen to better legal advice on military justice issues.

        • MrBill says:

          I’m willing to bet he’s gotten good advice; it’s the listening that’s most likely the problem.

          • Reddevil says:

            I noticed McMaster responding thusly to a question the other day:

            “The President will use whatever language he wants to use, obviously,” McMaster said. “I don’t think the President really modulates his language. I mean, have you noticed him do that? He has been very clear about that.”

            McMaster is a notoriously thorough, careful, and persuasive thinker and speaker. LTG McMaster would fire MG Trump.

        • Yef says:

          I don’t see it that way. Bergdhal was going to get off without a jail sentence regardless, due to the SJW Obama infected the military with.

          On the other hand, I as a voter need a constant reminder that the POTUS we elected is and will stay on the right side on every issue.

          Otherwise we risk the media and other enemies of the US controlling the message and the narrative.

          Remember W. He stayed quiet and the Leftist agenda advanced like never before.

          So keep tweeting Mr President.

        • Perry Gaskill says:

          Somebody needs to ‘splain to us slower members of the class why Trump’s comments needed to be mitigated at all. Colonel Nance was the judge. He had the responsibility to determine which facts were relevant, which weren’t, and what to do about it. What, exactly, was he mitigating? The effect of a presidential candidate’s comments on himself as judge?

          It’s unclear to me why Nance didn’t just say he heard Trump’s prior comments and chose to ignore them.

          • Hondo says:

            Bingo. See my comments below.

          • rgr769 says:

            A “mitigating” factor in sentencing is supposed to be something about the defendant’s background or conduct that warrants a lesser punishment. I fail to see how Trump’s comments about Berg-boi’s guilt have anything whatever to do with giving Berg-boi a lesser sentence or no sentence to prison.

        • RichG says:

          I’m not a Trump hater, but I really wish he would get off of Twitter and stop acting like a teenage girl everytime something new pops into his head.

      • Hondo says:

        Obviously I should have explicitly indicated I was being sarcastic above.

        There was zero UCI here. Nada. None. Zip.

        Nance obviously (as Alberich notes above) went out of his way to give Bergdahl the Ass a light sentence to avoid criticism on that score.

        What I don’t understand is why Nance didn’t give Bergdahl a reasonable and defendable sentence – say, five years confinement, total forfeitures, and a DD – then explicitly reduce the confinement to 2 years due to “mitigating” factors relating to public statements by the POTUS. That’s still far less than Bergdahl deserved, given the damage he caused. But it would have been reasonable – as well as explicitly honest.

        And yes, the quotes around “mitigating” above are intentional. I fail to see how a public statement that the judge himself explicitly stated would have zero effect on his sentencing decision because he’d already decided to retire from the military could be a proper matter for mitigation of punishment. Seems to me that the light sentence here was more a way to avoid criticism (while also perhaps giving the POTUS the finger) than anything else.

        I honestly have trouble understanding how Nance can sleep well at night, given his decision here. It’s a travesty.

        Being a wartime deserter and, if published reports are accurate, a collaborator with the nation’s enemies should have consequences far beyond a slap on the wrist. That’s true whether or not the despicable behavior resulted in friendly dead and injured.

        For Bergdahl, there will be few future consequences. And that’s a damn shame.

        • MrBill says:

          I don’t have much doubt that COL Nance is capable of making an independent judgment. I think it’s more a matter of maintaining public confidence in the independence of the military judiciary. I think that COL Nance could have simply said that “I’ll give the President’s comments zero weight” and I’d have confidence that he’d do just that; but saying “I’m going to consider them as a mitigating factor” reinforces his independence.

          There could be one other benefit. If the President can be persuaded that intemperate comments about military justice cases will not only be ignored, but may be counterproductive, he may think twice before making them. Yeah, that may be wishful thinking, but one can hope.

          • Alberich says:

            Also–it’s important to remember (as I know you know) that UCI is like fraternization: the appearance of it is considered just as bad as the reality of it. That is, remedies can be and are granted to avoid “apparent” UCI even without any proof of actual UCI.

            As Hondo has commented elsewhere, this godawful low sentence leaves no appearance that Judge Nance was intimidated into cracking down on Bergdahl. So there is that. Now we just have to hope Trump doesn’t create the appearance that he’s “influencing” the convening authority to affirm that sentence in its entirety…

            Just right now, a little silence would be golden.

          • USMC Steve says:

            As I have said before, the public perception of the military justice system is a non starter. Anyone on the outside has no right to have an opinion on it at all. And what opinion they have does not matter at all. Bergdahl committed two death penalty offenses, and caused significant changes to operations to look for him. Anything bad that the taliboobs did to him after they caught him is solely on Bergdahl. That they didn’t kill him is ample proof he collaborated with them, since they don’t take prisoners. Nothing that happened to him in captivity is relevant to his sentencing. Nance fucked up.

    • desert says:

      The very MINIMUM this perverted little bastard owes this country would be the 5 years he owed the army! the very MINIMUM! imo

  7. Reddevil says:

    Who knows- maybe Trumps comments had something to do with this; maybe they didn’t. We will never know for sure.

    Here’s what we do know: Candidate Trump said it, and President Trump reaffirmed it. When the candidate said it I thought it was part of his bombast. When President Trump,said it, I knew it was wrong. Here’s what I mean:

    The judge works for him, as do all of the prosecutors and most of the witnesses. Whether or not they influenced anyone in the end isn’t the point; he should have kept his mouth shut and let the system work.

    B-Dahl was either going to be found guilty or not, his sentence would be somewhere on a spectrum. Trump should have known that his comments could not help but only harm the case.

    This was, after all, a trial. Until the verdict was issued B-Dahl is consider d innocent. POTUS essentially declared his guilt and punishment. So, every involved in the case has that hanging over them.

    Why did he have to say anything?why couldn’t he keep his mouth shut? Here’s the decision: Stay quiet and let justice take its course, or chime in and potentially disrupt the process and taint the entire case.

    Easy call.

    But it doesn’t end- Trump called

    • Reddevil says:

      The entire system a disgrace- now, all magistrates, JAGs, and TDS attorneys, not to mention witnesses and jury panelists know what the president has declared.

      He isn’t a reality star any more. He needs to start acting like the president and Commander in Chief

      • GDContractor says:

        I agree, but I think he never had it in him. I think that in general he was sold to us in large part because “he will surround himself with the best and brightest” (Carl Icahn for example) . Well, as someone mentioned above, that doesn’t mean shit if you’re not willing to listen to those that you surround yourself with. I perceive Trump as a creature of emotion rather than a creature of logic.

        • desert says:

          Shyt you think you could accomplish in 9 months in this screwed up country what Trump has? take your freaking pills, your brainwashing is showing imho!

      • Yef says:

        For the first time in my lifetime we have a President that acts like an American President, putting the country first, and you are complaining?

        Go and suck Hitlary’s dick, Reddevil.

        I have zero tolerance for collectivists and elitists. I don’t care if they are Red like you or Pink or Green.

      • MrBill says:

        So guys, when do we convene the first meeting of the SOHDSC (Society Of Hillary-Dick-Sucking Communists)? 🤣

  8. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    That discrace for a judge nancy can wrap his/her lips around my good old American Swaheely and then pray for lockjaw.

  9. Devtun says:

    I’m guessing COL Nance won’t be seeing a promotion anytime soon.

    • Hondo says:

      I believe I’ve read he’s publicly stated that he plans to retire (presumably in the relatively near term) and doesn’t expect any further promotions.

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      I hope he gets a great big “KUTOMBA WEWE” if he seeks one.

  10. I think Trump is doing a far better job than the last 3 residents in the WH by far.
    But he needs put a filter on his comments and stay away from his twitter account, and listen to his chosen advisors more often.
    It would save him a lot grief from the left wing media assholes

  11. Flagwaver says:

    Now he will have to watch his every step. The moment he lets his guard down, he’ll find himself falling down a flight of stairs while walking home.

  12. Thunderstixx says:

    This all rings a bell of History to me.
    President Trump reminds me of General George S Patton as the General that just couldn’t keep his damn mouth shut.
    But, then again, in a fight nobody in their right mind could figure out what he was going to do next, which is what made him such a great Wartime Commander of the Third Army.

  13. ARMYSGM says:

    Once again our military justice system failed to provide proper punishment. This judge has set a new precedence with his punishment of of this dirt-bag. The aftermath of this ruling can have wide ranging effects on the good morale, welfare, and discipline of the Army. I have seen personally seen harsher sentences carried out for much lesser crimes during my 24 year tenure. We can only hope that this bleeding heart judge will not get his star. Hopefully there is a hard nose senior rater out there that will make this judgement reflect on this softy’s fitness report

  14. OWB says:

    My first question when hearing the sentence was whether it allows for his POW bennies. Apparently not, so that is good. Very good.

    Second question: When all these folks are throwing around accusations of undue command influence, are they talking about this POTUS or the last one?

  15. David says:

    Notice the key phrase “may have” – that translates to “I made this shit up but I’m going to run it past you like it might be real somehow in some alkternate universe”. Like “I may have inherited John Holmes’ equipment and made all the girls love me long time”. Most likely not true.

    Have to laugh at the comparison between Patton and Trump. Usually when Patton said something, it was carefully considered, even if inappropriate. Mostly when Trump says something it’s whatever flashed across his mind a millisecond earlier. Major difference. His sole positive attribute is that he isn’t Hillary.

  16. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    By pleading guilty in open court, to the desertion and misbehavior, he may have opened up himself to Article Three Section Three.

    Seems open and shut to me.

  17. propsguy says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Col Nance just didn’t give a good F**k anymore.

    He’s already put in for retirement, he probably just wanted this circus out of his life so he can start working on his backswing.

    Officers get short timers attitude too.