Trump Pardons Two Soldiers Accused of War Crimes

Clay Curtis
November 16, 2019

President Donald Trump on Friday evening absolved three U.S. service members who were either convicted or were still facing trial of war crimes.

Trump also pardoned Major Matthew Golsteyn, a Green Beret who was charged with an unlawful killing in Afghanistan and was facing a court martial, the White House statement said. One of Gallagher's lawyers, Timothy Parlatore, said then that ruling would cost Gallagher up to $200,000 in retirement funds because of his loss of rank from a chief petty officer to a 1st class petty officer. His trial was expected to begin next month. At the time, Mr. Trump acknowledged opposition to the possible pardons by some veterans and other groups and said he could make a decision after trials had been held.

In July, a military jury acquitted him of murdering a captured Islamic State fighter by stabbing the wounded prisoner in the neck, but it convicted him of illegally posing with the detainee's corpse.

The calls were made at the tail end of a day dominated by impeachment hearings against Trump, and after days of efforts by some senior Pentagon officials to change his mind, according to three USA officials. "We would also like to thank the American people for their unwavering support during this very hard time for my family and I - we can never thank you enough".

Other U.S. officials and advocates for the service members involved have said that adopting the president's desires in the military justice system should not be hard.

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The American Civil Liberties Union criticised the president's action.

"The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted", the White House said in a statement on Friday evening.

Asked last week if he supported the exoneration of Gallagher, Golsteyn and Lorance, Esper told reporters that he had a "robust discussion" with the president about the issue and offered his advice and recommendations.

Trump also ordered the restoration of rank and full back pay for former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, whose high-profile war crimes case fell apart this past year when another man dramatically confessed on the witness stand to killing an unarmed detainee during interrogation.

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