President Trump’s harsh criticism of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his Army post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban, will weigh in favor of a lighter sentence for the sergeant, the New York Times reports. “I will consider the president’s comments as mitigation evidence as I arrive at an appropriate sentence,” Judge Jeffery Nance of the Army said during a hearing at Fort Bragg. He is expected to sentence Sergeant Bergdahl in the next few weeks. The judge rejected a request that he dismiss the case or cap the length of the sentence on the grounds the president’s comments had precluded a fair hearing. The judge said he had not been influenced by the remarks and that the public’s confidence in the military justice system had not been undermined.
Sgt. Bergdahl faces up to life imprisonment. He pleaded guilty on Oct. 16 to desertion and endangering the troops who were sent to search for him. He testified on Monday that he deeply regretted that people “suffered because of my bad choices.” “I’m admitting I made a horrible mistake,” the sergeant said. “It was never my intention for anyone to be hurt, and I never expected that to happen.” As a candidate, Trump repeatedly called Sergeant Bergdahl a traitor and suggested that he should be executed or returned to the Taliban. On Oct. 16, Trump seemed to endorse those earlier sentiments, saying, “I think people have heard my comments in the past.”