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Bergdahl Lawyers Pursue Prosecutor's Emails With White House
Lawyers for alleged deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are pursuing uncensored copies of emails they believe show the Trump administration’s attempt to appear impartial by backing off disparaging comments made on the campaign trail.
There are 113 heavily redacted emails at stake – unmistakably between government prosecutors and the White House, according to defense lawyers. The emails were turned over to the defense in a federal Freedom of Information Act request after the military judge denied a defense motion to dismiss the case based on Trump’s campaign-trail criticism.
“These emails confirm, first, that after President Trump became president and during the pendency of (the defense motion to dismiss), his staff was in substantial contact with trial counsel by email, telephone and in person, about (the motion to dismiss),” according to the defense’s motion seeking uncensored versions of the emails.
Second, the defense said, the emails attempt to distance Trump as prosecutors urged the administration to issue a statement similar to a 2013 statement from then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel after President Obama said any member of the Armed Forces found to have committed sexual harassment should receive a dishonorable discharge.
No statement has been released.
"The purpose of that suggestion … was transparently to blunt Sgt. Bergdahl’s apparent unlawful command influence case by trying to build a wall between Mr. Trump’s campaign statements and his views after taking the oath of Office,” according to the defense.
Bergdahl is charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place. He could face life imprisonment if convicted of misbehavior before the enemy.
Bergdahl walked off his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently held by the Taliban for five years. He was released in May 2014 in exchange for prisoners being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Charges were served to Bergdahl on Dec. 14, 2015, following an Article 32 preliminary hearing on Sept. 17 and 18, 2015, at Joint Base San Antonio. He is not in pretrial confinement or any form of arrest, according to U.S. Army Forces Command.
The court-martial is scheduled for October at Fort Bragg. He has decided to be tried by a judge, not a military jury.
The emails were discovered in August after the defense submitted a formal request for communications between the Army and others concerning Bergdahl.
The request followed a separate defense motion from May in which lawyers asked the judge to toss out the case because of Trump’s campaign-trial criticism. In that motion, lawyers said Bergdahl’s due process rights had been violated by then-candidate Trump and it would be impossible to receive a fair trial. The military judge overseeing the case, Col. Jeffery Nance, denied that motion.
The Army turned over 113 emails to the defense, which are described as “heavily-redacted emails from Forscom’s files,” according to the motion.
“They were unmistakably emails to and from trial counsel, including a number between trial counsel and White House personnel,” according to the motion.
Defense lawyers also want an order directing Maj. Justin Oshana, the lead prosecutor, to make himself available for an interview, as they intend to call him as witness to the redacted communication.
“Trial counsel’s failure to persuade the White House to ‘Hagelize’ President Trump’s campaign statements shows that – whatever other campaign positions the president has abandoned since 20 January 2017 – so far as Sgt. Bergdahl is concerned, he has not only changed his tune but passed up an explicit opportunity to do so,” according to the defense. “Silence may be golden, but this silence speaks volumes.”
©2017 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to take military action to stop Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb but left open whether he would back the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies that Washington fears may be under threat by Iran.
Worries about a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since attacks last week on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane at the entrance to the Gulf. Washington blamed long-time foe Iran for the incidents.
Tehran denies responsibility but the attacks, and similar ones in May, have further soured relations that have plummeted since Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark international nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.
Trump has restored and extended U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. That has forced countries around the world to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
But in an interview with Time magazine, Trump, striking a different tone from some Republican lawmakers who have urged a military approach to Iran, said last week's tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman had only a "very minor" impact so far.
Asked if he would consider military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or to ensure the free flow of oil through the Gulf, Trump said: "I would certainly go over nuclear weapons and I would keep the other a question mark."
Minnesota Democratic Party staffer under fire for calling USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul a 'murder boat'
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday he is appalled by a state DFL Party staff member's tweet referring to the recently-launched USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul as a "murder boat."
"Certainly, the disrespect shown is beyond the pale," said Walz, who served in the Army National Guard.
William Davis, who has been the DFL Party's research director and deputy communications director, made the controversial comment in response to a tweet about the launch of a new Navy combat ship in Wisconsin: "But actually, I think it's gross they're using the name of our fine cities for a murder boat," Davis wrote on Twitter over the weekend.
'We are there to deter aggression' — Pompeo addressed CENTCOM on Iran mere moments before Shanahan announced his departure
TAMPA — Minutes before the Acting Secretary of Defense withdrew Tuesday from his confirmation process, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at MacDill Air Force Base about the need to coordinate "diplomatic and defense efforts'' to address rising tensions with Iran.
Pompeo, who arrived in Tampa on Monday, met with Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. and Army Gen. Richard Clarke, commanders of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command respectively, to align the Government's efforts in the Middle East, according to Central Command.
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The trial of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher officially kicked off on Tuesday with the completion of jury selection, opening statements, and witness testimony indicating that drinking alcohol on the front lines of Mosul, Iraq in 2017 seemed to be a common occurrence for members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon.
Government prosecutors characterized Gallagher as a knife-wielding murderer who not only killed a wounded ISIS fighter but shot indiscriminately at innocent civilians, while the defense argued that those allegations were falsehoods spread by Gallagher's angry subordinates, with attorney Tim Parlatore telling the jury that "this trial is not about murder. It's about mutiny."
President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will "not to go forward with his confirmation process."
Trump said that Army Secretary Mark Esper will now serve as acting defense secretary.