November 4, 2017


Your Sentencing Advice Isn't Helpful, Mr. President (Andrew C. McCarthy, November 4, 2017, National Review)

The twaddle President Trump tweeted (here and here) in urging the "DEATH PENALTY!" for Sayfullo Saipov, the West Side Highway jihadist, is maddening -- and not just on its face. Only days earlier, the commander-in-chief had been chastised for intemperate remarks affecting another case, the court-martial of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

As we recounted in a recent column, Trump's bull-in-a-china-shop routine rumbled through the sentencing proceedings of the deserter and former Taliban prisoner. Unwilling (or is it unable?) to utter the words "no comment" when asked about the case during a press conference, the president reaffirmed his campaign-trail incitements about the "dirty, rotten traitor" (for whom he'd pantomimed a firing-squad execution).

Trump, or at least someone at the White House, must have known that the defense had already moved to get the case thrown out on the theory that Trump had prejudiced Bergdahl's fair-trial rights. When he denied this motion, the military judge explained that candidate Trump had not been in command authority when he made his remarks. The clear message to the White House was that this would be a much tougher call if Trump spewed such demagoguery as president. Seemingly taking this as a dare rather than prudent advice, he proceeded to spew it as president. Naturally, the defense renewed the motion. After a few days of hand-wringing, the manifestly irritated judge denied it, on grounds that were far less defensible. Yesterday, undoubtedly concerned that the president's comments could result in a reversal on appeal if a stiff sentence were imposed, the judge sentenced Bergdahl to no jail time -- notwithstanding that desertion can carry a lengthy term of imprisonment, and Bergdahl's desertion resulted in soldiers' being severely wounded in the search for him.

Earlier, aware of the problems his off-the-cuff remarks had already caused in the court-martial, the president nevertheless butted into the West Side Highway jihadist's legal proceedings. He was moved to do so, he said, because the justice system "is a joke and it's a laughingstock." Well, it is if the president turns it into one.

Posted by at November 4, 2017 8:42 AM