President Donald Trump has issued pardons to two Army officers that were either convicted of or charged with war crimes. He also promoted a Navy SEAL who was previously acquited for similar violations.
The unsurprising move by Trump puts him at odds with the US military. First Lt. Clint Lorance was serving six years of a 19-year sentence. Maj. Matthew Golsteyn who had been awaiting trial after being accused of an extrajudicial killing of a suspected bombmaker in Afghanistan; in December 2018, he was charged with premeditated murder.
The White House released an official statement supporting this decision by Pres. Trump.
The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted,” “For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history. As the President has stated, ‘when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.'”
Lorance was found guilty by a military court on two counts of second-degree murder for ordering his soldiers to fire on three men in Afghanistan in 2008. He was convicted partly due to the strong testimony given by members of his infantry platoon.
Golsteyn is still set to stand trial for the alleged extrajudicial killing of a suspected terrorist bomb-maker in Afghanistan in 2010. Golsteyn was a Green Beret team leader at the time of the incident, and was awarded the Silver Star. The military later took the award back after he admitted to the killing during a CIA job interview, prompting the initial investigation into his actions.
Gallagher’s recent acquittal on most charges stemming from the murder of a teenage prisoner of war in Iraq drew widespread attention due to Trump’s defense of his actions. Members of Gallagher’s SEAL platoon testified against him. But in what was described as a botched prosecution, some of the witnesses contradicted one another and even themselves.
Gallagher was acquitted of the murder charge but was found guilty of the lesser offense of posing for photographs with the corpse and was demoted.
But the president’s promotion of Gallagher also struck at least one fellow service member as interfering in military’s process for meting out justice. In a statement, the ACLU called the pardons an “utterly shameful use of presidential powers.”