Bowe Bergdahl lawyers seek meeting with Donald Trump

Bowe Bergdahl
(Andrew Craft /The Fayetteville Observer via AP)

(CBS NEWS) – Attorneys for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Saturday they may seek a deposition from presidential contender Donald Trump or call him as a witness at a legal proceeding, saying they fear his comments could affect their client’s right to a fair trial.

Bergdahl’s attorney Army Lt. Col. Franklin Rosenblatt asked Trump in a letter dated Saturday for an interview to discuss the Republican’s comments about Bergdahl, who faces military charges after walking off a post in Afghanistan in 2009, CBS reported.

The letter sent to Trump’s New York office by registered mail says the interview would determine whether they will seek to have him give a deposition or appear as a witness at a legal hearing.

“I request to interview you as soon as possible about your comments about Sergeant Bergdahl during frequent appearances in front of large audiences in advance of his court-martial,” Rosenblatt wrote in the letter on U.S. Army letterhead.

Defense attorney Eugene Fidell said Trump’s statements could affect Bergdahl’s right to a fair trial. He added in an email to The Associated Press that the statements “raise a serious question as to whether he has compromised Sgt. Bergdahl’s right to a fair trial.”

A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to an email and a phone call seeking comment.

In October, Trump called Bergdahl a “traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed.”

Fidell also asked the House and Senate Armed Services committees in December to avoid further statements “that prejudice our client’s right to a fair trial.” The House committee issued a 98-page report criticizing the Obama administration’s decision to swap five former Taliban leaders for Bergdahl.

Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, a relatively rare charge that carries a punishment of up to life in prison. His trial had been tentatively scheduled for August, but legal wrangling over access to classified documents has caused delays.

Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, walked off his post in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, and was released in late May 2014 as part of a prisoner swap, in exchange for five detainees in Guantanamo Bay. The move prompted harsh criticism, with some in Congress accusing President Barack Obama of jeopardizing the safety of the country.

He was arraigned in December but has yet to enter a plea.

Bergdahl began telling his story publicly for the first time in December on the second season of the popular “Serial” podcast.

Misbehavior before the enemy was used hundreds of times during World War II, but scholars say its use appears to have dwindled in conflicts since then. Legal databases and media accounts turn up only a few misbehavior cases since 2001 when fighting began in Afghanistan, followed by Iraq less than two years later. By contrast, statistics show the U.S. Army prosecuted about 1,900 desertion cases between 2001 and the end of 2014.

© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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