President Barack Obama said that he has “no tolerance” for sexual assault in the military, comments made in the wake of a new Pentagon report showing the instances of such crimes have spiked since 2010.The president said he had spoken today with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to urge him to “exponentially step up” efforts to identify suspects in assaults, and aggressively prosecute those cases.“The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this,” Obama said at a press conference following his meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.‘I expect consequences,” Obama added. “So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable – prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”(…“For those who are in uniform who’ve experience sexual assault, I want them to hear directly from their commander in chief that I’ve got their backs,” the president said. “I will support them. And we’re not going to tolerate this stuff, and there will be accountability.”
(a) No authority convening a general, special, or summary court-martial, nor any other commanding officer, may censure, reprimand, or admonish the court or any member, military judge, or counsel thereof, with respect to the findings or sentence adjudged by the court, or with respect to any other exercises of its or his functions in the conduct of the proceedings. No person subject to this chapter may attempt to coerce or, by any unauthorized means, influence the action of a court-martial or any other military tribunal or any member thereof, in reaching the findings or sentence in any case, or the action of any convening, approving, or reviewing authority with respect to his judicial acts. The foregoing provisions of the subsection shall not apply with respect to (1) general instructional or informational courses in military justice if such courses are designed solely for the purpose of instructing members of a command in the substantive and procedural aspects of courts-martial, or (2) to statements and instructions given in open court by the military judge, president of a special court-martial, or counsel.
Additionally, the ruling in these cases will likely end up being appealed, likely before the trial actually starts.
Recently, for example, the White House has been criticized for not commenting directly on the Justice Department’s investigation of leaks that includes pursuing information from journalists using subpoenas and search warrants. There has also been a lot of criticism directed at the White House from the right for it failure to officially designating the November 2009 Ford Hood massacre as a terrorist act, and that Major Nidal Hasan continues to receive his military pay while awaiting trial on those charges. In both cases, the White House has pointedly refused to comment on the cases at hand, and that was entirely the appropriate reaction. Specific comments from the President regarding guilt or innocence of a Defendant would be highly inappropriate and would likely result in defense attorneys moving for mistrials at any criminal proceeding. The comments the President made here, of course, were not about a specific case, but this ruling is a pretty good reminder of what could happen if Presidents started bending to the demands of reporters or political opponents that they make comment on such matters.