As a candidate for president, Donald Trump was open about his displeasure of then-President Obama’s deal to retrieve Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Afghanistan after his 2009 disappearance and capture by the Taliban.
Beyond condemning the deal itself, Trump also verbally attacked Bergdahl repeatedly, calling him a traitor and a deserter.
U.S. officials reached a deal in 2014 to release several Taliban prisons in exchange for Bergdahl, but then charged him 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.
Before that, 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.
Trump regularly included condemnation of the deal in his campaign speeches and likened it to the Iran nuclear deal, which he also thought 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 shoot a guy like that.”
Bergdahl, who today entered a guilty plea to the two charges he faced, has taken notice of Trump’s rhetoric and told a British filmmaker that it would be impossible for him to get a fair trial now that Trump is 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.”