LAS VEGAS (AP) — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Thursday that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl should have been executed for leaving his post in Afghanistan.
“We’re tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed,” Trump said to cheers at a rowdy rally inside a packed Las Vegas theater at the casino-hotel Treasure Island.
“Thirty years ago,” Trump added, “he would have been shot.”
It was practically an aside in a litany of complaints at the end of a more than hourlong, free-wheeling speech that included a large dose of media bashing and a claim that he was behind Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s decision to drop out of the race for House speaker.
Bergdahl was charged in March with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The Army conducted a hearing on his case earlier this month. His attorney, Eugene Fidell, said in a statement that Trump “has become a broken record on this subject.”
“If he took the time to study what actually emerged at the preliminary hearing he would be singing a different tune,” Fidell said.
Trump has, in the past, pantomimed a firing squad, Fidell said.
Bergdahl has been accused of leaving his post in southeastern Afghanistan in June 2009. He was held prisoner by the Taliban for five years, then exchanged for five Taliban commanders being held by the U.S. Trump has long railed against the deal.
The speech was punctuated by shouts of support from the crowd that filled about 1,620 seats in the Las Vegas Strip casino theater normally reserved for acrobatic Cirque du Soleil productions.
At one point, in a moment that appeared to be impromptu, Trump brought a supporter in the audience to the stage who declared she is Hispanic and voting for Trump. Myriam Witcher, 35, of Las Vegas, waved an issue of People magazine with Trump and his family on the cover, asking Trump to sign it.
Afterward, the Columbian immigrant, who noted she came to the United States legally, called Trump her “No. 1 person in the United States.”
His speech spanned a spider-web of topics that included his disdain for media coverage, many of his fellow Republican presidential candidates and current political leadership as well as Thursday’s news that McCarthy had dropped out of a race for House speaker.
“You know, Kevin McCarthy is out. You know that, right?” he asked the crowd. “And they’re giving me a lot of credit for that because I said you really need somebody very, very tough and very smart. ... We need smart, we need tough, we need the whole package.”
Trump didn’t identify who had given him credit for McCarthy dropping out.