A U.S. military judge declined to dismiss a desertion case against Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl despite President Donald Trump's labeling of the former Taliban prisoner as a "traitor."
While Trump's criticism was "problematic," the judge ruled on February 24, it hasn't prevented the soldier from getting a fair trial on charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009, an act that led to his capture by the Taliban.
Bergdahl's lawyers had argued Trump tainted the case with bias by repeatedly calling Bergdahl a "traitor" while campaigning for office last year.
Bergdahl's case is scheduled for trial in April. He could face life in prison if convicted on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
The judge, Army Colonel Jeffery Nance, wrote in his ruling that Trump's comments were "disturbing and disappointing" but amounted to campaign-trail rhetoric and shouldn't impair the impartiality of potential jurors.
Bergdahl's lead defense attorney, Eugene Fidell, said he will appeal Nance's ruling.
The defense has cited more than 40 instances of Trump criticism at public appearances last year, including saying Berdahl "should be shot" or pushed out of a plane without a parachute.
Based on reporting by AP and the Idaho Statesman