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Bergdahl seeks pardon from Obama to avert desertion trial

04 December 2016
Bergdahl seeks pardon from Obama to avert desertion trial

According to a well-placed source, Bergdahl thanked the president for rescuing him in May 2014 in a controversial exchange for five Taliban prisoners from Gitmo, in addition to asking for a pardon in the letter.

The White House has received Bergdahl's pardon application, but could not comment on pending cases per standard practice, an official said on Saturday on condition of anonymity.

If convicted, the soldier faces a potential maximum sentence of life in prison.

Bergdahl, who was captured during the Afghanistan War and held hostage by the Taliban for five years before Obama intervened, did not request the pardon through the normal military chain of command. His trial is scheduled to start April 18, 2017. Lawmakers expressed outrage that the Obama administration did not give Congress a 30-day notice about transferring the detainees to Qatar, as required by law.

He is accused of putting his fellow soldiers in danger and faces a court-martial on charges including desertion.

President-elect Donald Trump criticized Bergdahl on the campaign trail, calling him a "dirty, rotten traitor" who "should have been executed", the Hill reported.

Sgt. Bergdahl's lead defense lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell, declined to comment the legal team's efforts when reached by the newspaper prior to publication. Bergdahl has said he walked off his post because he wanted to cause an alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

Now that Trump is president-elect, a fair military trial will be impossible, Fidell told The New York Times.

The New York Times was the first to report Bergdahl's appeal for leniency from Barack Obama.

His request to Obama was confirmed by White House and Justice Department officials who were not authorized to discuss the matter by name.