U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s former platoon member said Monday the one-time prisoner of war -- who asked for a presidential pardon after being accused of endangering comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan – “has to be accountable for his actions.”
Sgt. Matt Vierkant told “FOX & Friends,” “It’s nobody’s fault but his that he was put in that position so he has nobody to blame but himself and it’s unfortunate that he was a prisoner for five years, but it’s his own fault.”
Vierkant went on to dispute the allegations that no troops were killed in the search for Sgt. Bergdahl.
“I think everyone in the military and everyone I know knows that people are seriously hurt and killed because of Bergdahl’s actions and as the trial gets under way… it will all come to the attention of everyone.”
White House and Justice Dept. officials said Saturday that Bergdahl had submitted copies of the clemency request seeking leniency. If granted by President Obama, it would allow Bergdahl to avoid a military trial scheduled for April where he faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The misbehavior charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
If the pardon isn't granted, Bergdahl's defense team said it would expand its legal strategy to the new administration by filing a motion arguing that President-elect Donald Trump violated his due process rights with scathing public comments about the case.
Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held captive by the Taliban and the group’s allies for five years.
The Obama administration's decision in May 2014 to exchange him for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, led some Republicans to accuse the president of jeopardizing the nation's safety. Some lawmakers said they were outraged the administration didn't give Congress a 30-day notice about transferring the detainees, as required by law.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump was one of Bergdahl's most vocal critics, saying repeatedly the soldier was a traitor who would have been executed in the "old days."
During a July speech in Indiana, Trump lamented that Bergdahl could wind up with a light punishment.
"Remember the old days? A deserter, what happened?" he said before pantomiming pulling a trigger and adding: "Bang."
Bergdahl, who faces trial at Fort Bragg, has said he walked off his post in Afghanistan because he wanted to cause an alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.
But Bergdahl's lead defense lawyer, Eugene Fidell, said he planned to file a motion seeking dismissal of the charges against Bergdahl shortly after the January inauguration, arguing Trump violated Bergdahl's constitutional due-process rights.
The defense has been noting Trump's comments about Bergdahl in what they've dubbed the "Trump Defamation Log." A version included in the court record lists 40 such instances as of August.
"All of these things put together and repeated rally upon rally for basically a year have a cumulative effect that I think is totally at odds with the right to a fair trial," Fidell said in a phone interview.
Sgt. Vierkant, Bergdahl’s former platoon member, views the situation differently, thinking Bergdahl would receive a fair trial under the incoming Trump administration.
“He was never in his chain of command. He has no say or ruling over the trial. I believe we should let the military be professionals… in the end, his opinion isn't going to affect it any more than my opinion or anyone else.”
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin, Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.