The Big Reason Bowe Bergdahl Wants Obama's Pardon

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, according to The New York Times, the legal team representing Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl submitted a clemency request to the White House, hoping to secure a pardon for the former Taliban captive. The request is uniquely urgent, especially after what happened on Nov. 8. There's one huge reason why Bowe Bergdahl wants President Obama to pardon him, and its name is Donald Trump.

It's not just because Bergdahl has reason to suspect Trump might want him treated harshly, it's because Trump promised to during his campaign, in very specific terms. Back in August of 2015, at a campaign event in New Hampshire, Trump excoriated Bergdahl, who stands accused of deserting his base and his unit before being captured by the Taliban, and who was subjected to years of imprisonment and torture. Trump called him "a dirty, rotten traitor," and he also made it pretty clear what he thought Bergdahl's punishment should be:

So we get a traitor called Bergdahl, a dirty, rotten traitor. Who by the way, when he deserted, six young beautiful people were killed trying to find him, right? And you don't even hear about him anymore. Somebody said the other day, "Well, he has some psychological problems." You know, in the old days, bing, bong, when we were strong. When we were strong.

As if to drive the point home, Trump lifted his arms as he said "bing, bong," as through he were firing a rifle. While the words "kill him" went unsaid, the statement seemed clear. Bustle has reached out to the Trump campaign for comment on what exactly he meant. But Trump seemed to make his opinion explicit at other times on the campaign trail. If you're one of the many people who listened to the second season of the podcast Serial, which centered entirely around Bergdahl's story, then you've already heard one such example ― the introduction to the very first episode includes a clip of Trump talking about Bergdahl. "In the old days," Trump mused, "deserters would be shot, right?"

Simply put, from Bergdahl's perspective, this is a nightmare scenario, and it makes all the sense in the world that he'd ask Obama to pardon him before Trump takes over.

It's a similar situation to the one NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden now faces, still living abroad in Russia under stated fears of an unfair prosecution in an American court. Throughout the campaign, Trump similarly called for Snowden's execution, and his pick for CIA chief, Rep. Mike Pompeo, is reportedly in agreement about that, having said, "He should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think that the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence for having put friends of mine, friends of yours, in the military today, at enormous risk because of the information he stole and then released to foreign powers."

Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

It'd be far more surprising for Obama to pardon Snowden than it would be for him to pardon Bergdahl, regardless of whether you're sympathetic to one or both of them ― in fact, the administration has already batted down requests to pardon Snowden. But both men have plenty to fear and good reason to try, thanks to the incoming president.

In short, it makes all the sense in the world for them to exercise whatever legal options they have, including appealing to the sympathies of the current commander-in-chief.