Gen. Robert Abrams was asked about Sen. John McCain's comments
Bergdahl's defense is seeking to have him removed from the court martial case
The Army general who oversaw the filing of charges against Bowe Bergdahl rejected on Wednesday defense claims that he can’t be fair and called being impartial a “duty.”
“I must remain fair and impartial as part of our military justice system,” Gen. Robert Abrams testified during a pre-trial hearing. “I take that duty very, very seriously.”
Abrams, commanding general of Forces Command, was compelled to take the stand after Bergdahl’s attorneys filed motions earlier this week against Abrams challenging his ability to oversee the case fairly. The case was referred to general court-martial by Abrams, the convening authority in the case.
Bergdahl, who could spend the rest of his life in prison, is facing the court martial for charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after he disappeared from his base in Afghanistan in June 2009. He was captured and held in captivity by the Taliban until a prisoner exchange in May 2014.
For about 30 minutes, Abrams answered questions from Judge Army Col. Jeffrey Nance, who is overseeing the court-martial trial, in a courtroom at Fort Bragg.
On the stand, Abrams, a four-star general, denied any wrongdoing and insisted that he has not been swayed by comments made about the case by Sen. John McCain or his time working for former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
While Abrams noted that he had worked for Hagel at the time the US military was trying to find and rescue Bergdahl, he said he never had any direct involvement in those missions.
Abrams also addressed what he called “inappropriate comments” McCain made to Th Boston Herald in October. McCain told the Herald he would hold a congressional hearing if Bergdahl wasn’t punished during his military trial. In the same interview, the Arizona Republican added that Bergdahl “clearly deserted” his post.
Abrams said comments made by McCain and other public figures are inappropriate and make it hard find jurors who have not been affected by such remarks.
Defense attorneys also have said that Abrams should be removed from the case because of letters he received from the public about Bergdahl that were destroyed without the defense seeing them.
Eugene the lead defense attorney, told reporters that Abrams’ destruction of the letters was “detrimental to the defense” and “uncorrectable.”
Prosecutors argued the letters would have no impact on the trial since they were inadmissible.
Nance ended the three-day pre-trial hearing Wednesday without ruling on the motion to have Abrams dismissed, but said he will issue his opinion in writing as soon as possible.