Trump issues pardons for 3 service members accused of war crimes
President Donald Trump has intervened in the cases of three American service members convicted or accused of war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq by issuing pardons and maintaining the rank of one of the service members who had been demoted.
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A White House statement issued Friday night announced Trump’s actions in the cases of Army Lt. Clint Lorance, Army Green Beret Maj. Matt Golsteyn and Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.
Lorance is serving 19 years in prison, convicted on two counts of second-degree murder for ordering a soldier to fire on unarmed Afghan motorcyclists in 2012. Golsteyn is charged with the murder of an alleged Afghan bomb-maker in 2010. And Gallagher, while acquitted of killing a wounded Islamic State captive earlier this year, was sentenced to four months of time served and a reduction in rank for posing with a corpse during a 2017 deployment to Iraq.
“Today, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) for Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) for Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, and an order directing the promotion of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward R. Gallagher to the grade of E-7, the rank he held before he was tried and found not guilty of nearly all of the charges against him,” the statement read.
“The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted,” the statement continued. “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.”
Speculation that Trump might intervene in the three cases began last week after Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth said the president could take “imminent action” in the form of pardons, commutations or dismissals of charges.
The Fox News report sparked Defense Secretary Mark Esper to convene a meeting with Army and Navy leadership to review the war crimes cases, two defense officials told ABC News.
According to one official, the meeting was to compile information packets about their cases that Esper could provide to the president.
Esper later confirmed that on Tuesday he had “a robust discussion” with Trump about letting the cases play out in the military justice system.