NBC's Lauer Frets: Is Army 'Succumbing to Public Pressure' By Investigating Bergdahl's Desertion?

In an interview with Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's attorney on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer worried that the former Taliban captive and possible deserter was being unfairly investigated by the military [Listen to the audio]:

There was so much fanfare after his release. The President met in the Rose Garden with Sergeant Bergdahl's parents. Top military officials were quoted as saying they didn't think he would face any major punishment. And then the criticism started and then the controversy started. Now there's a full-fledged investigation. Do you think the military is succumbing to public pressure on this?

Attorney Eugene Fidell responded: "No, I really don't....Part of it is consternation among some people about the release of anyone from Guantanamo. There are people who are really invested in that issue and they would like to make Sergeant Bergdahl's case a sort of punching bag because of that concern."

Lauer followed up with another softball: "You had read so much about the case before you met him. You've now had the chance to sit down face-to-face with him. Is he what you expected?"

Finally asking a challenging question, Lauer noted Bergdahl's anti-American views:

Fellow soldiers have accused him of desertion, as you know. The Army conducted an investigation after he left his post and it was incomplete. But they seemed to conclude that, in fact, he did walk away from duty.

There's the Rolling Stone article that had this email said to be from Sergeant Bergdahl to his parents: "I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of U.S. soldier is just the lie of fools. The U.S. Army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools and bullies. The horror of America is disgusting." How do you defend a guy against his own words?

Fidell pushed back: "We don't have all the facts yet. I know more than you know and I know more than most anybody knows about what happened here and I'm perfectly comfortable defending him."

Wrapping up the exchange, Lauer wondered: "He's back on active duty. Is he proud to be wearing the uniform of the U.S. military, is he proud to be serving his country?" Fidell replied: "Yes, I believe he is." Lauer countered: "Does he want to stay in the military or is he looking forward to the day he can get out?" Fidell stated: "I think he's ready for the next chapter."

Here is a full transcript of the July 17 interview:

7:17 AM ET

MATT LAUER: Now the next step for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who returned to active duty a little earlier this week after a reintegration process and five years in Taliban captivity. In the coming weeks an Army investigator is expected to question him about the circumstances that led to his disappearance and capture back in 2009. Bergdahl could face a court-martial on charges of desertion or going AWOL. Sergeant Bergdahl recently retained civilian lawyer and military law expert Eugene Fidell. Mr. Fidell, good morning, good to see you.

EUGENE FIDELL: Good Morning, Matt. Nice to be here.  

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Bergdahl's Lawyer Speaks Out; How Former Captive Is Doing As He Returns to Duty]

LAUER: There was so much fanfare after his release. The President met in the Rose Garden with Sergeant Bergdahl's parents. Top military officials were quoted as saying they didn't think he would face any major punishment. And then the criticism started and then the controversy started. Now there's a full-fledged investigation. Do you think the military is succumbing to public pressure on this?

FIDELL: No, I really don't. Obviously there are a number of narratives that are competing for attention. Part of it is consternation among some people about the release of anyone from Guantanamo. There are people who are really invested in that issue and they would like to make Sergeant Bergdahl's case a sort of punching bag because of that concern.

LAUER: You had read so much about the case before you met him. You've now had the chance to sit down face-to-face with him. Is he what you expected?

FIDELL: I don't know that I had a concept of what to expect. What I can say is that my meeting with him in San Antonio last week was productive. I like him. For what it's worth, the sort of chemistry is productive. You have to get along with your clients.

LAUER: Fellow soldiers have accused him of desertion, as you know. The Army conducted an investigation after he left his post and it was incomplete. But they seemed to conclude that, in fact, he did walk away from duty.

There's the Rolling Stone article that had this email said to be from Sergeant Bergdahl to his parents: "I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of U.S. soldier is just the lie of fools. The U.S. Army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools and bullies. The horror of America is disgusting." How do you defend a guy against his own words?

FIDELL: We don't have all the facts yet. I know more than you know and I know more than most anybody knows about what happened here and I'm perfectly comfortable defending him. This is not the place to lay out a defense strategy. What I will say is Major General Kenneth Dahl, who is doing the investigation for the Army, is going to go out. He's got a big team. They're going to talk to everybody in sight and then we'll know a lot more.

LAUER: He's back on active duty. Is he proud to be wearing the uniform of the U.S. military, is he proud to be serving his country?

FIDELL: Yes, I believe he is. And he's back to duty. He's a duty non-com, and you know, it's not gonna-  

LAUER: Does he want to stay in the military or is he looking forward to the day he can get out?

FIDELL: I think he's ready for the next chapter.

LAUER: Alright. Mr. Fidell, thank you very much.

FIDELL: My pleasure.

LAUER: We'll be following this story.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.