President Donald Trump called the news that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will not be facing any prison time a “complete disgrace” today, but that’s far from the harshest comment he’s had on the issue.
“The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military,” Trump tweeted Friday afternoon.
His most recent previous remark came on Oct. 16, when Trump declined to comment on the Bergdahl case, saying, “They’re setting up sentencing, so I’m not going to comment on him. But I think people have heard my comments in the past.”
Those past comments have been plentiful, even calling for Bergdahl’s death on a number of occasions.
U.S. officials reached a deal in 2014 to release several Taliban prisons in exchange for Bergdahl, who left his base in Afghanistan and was then held captive by the Taliban. Bergdahl was later charged with desertion with intention to shirk duty and misbehavior before the enemy. That was in 2015, just months before Trump announced his candidacy for president.
Trump repeatedly condemned the deal, and also verbally attacked Bergdahl, calling him a traitor and a deserter.
Before his presidential run, Trump wrote in a tweet on June 1, 2014, “President Obama created a VERY BAD precedent by handing over five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Another U.S. loss!”
Despite Trump’s repeated claims that several soldiers died in connection to the search for Bergdahl, who ultimately remained in captivity for nearly five years, the U.S. military has never publicly acknowledged such fatalities, though at least three soldiers were seriously injured, according to a prosecution document.
The focus on the deal itself, which Trump clearly viewed as a mistake, carried through the campaign.
The deal granted Bergdahl’s freedom for that of five Taliban prisoners who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Trump regularly included condemnation of the deal in his campaign speeches and likened it to the Iran nuclear deal, which he’s also said was a mistake.
“We get Bergdahl, who was a traitor, and they get five of the greatest killers that they’ve wanted for eight years. We get Bergdahl — I call it the five for one trade,” Trump said in August 2016.
Trump has also called for Bergdahl’s execution, saying he “should have been executed” and that “30 years ago he would have been shot.”
“You probably can’t do it, but if I win I may just have him flown back in the middle of that place and dropped, right in the middle. Let them have him, let him have them. That’s cheaper than a bullet,” Trump said at an October 2015 campaign rally.
At another point, Trump said a firing squad should be used to execute Bergdahl and, on Nov. 9, 2015, he said, “In the old days when we were strong and wise, we [would] shoot a guy like that.”
Bergdahl noticed Trump’s rhetoric, telling a British filmmaker last year that it would be impossible for him to get a fair trial once Trump was commander in chief.
“We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted,” Bergdahl said. “The people who want to hang me; you’re never going to convince those people.”