Trump Pardons Army Officers Accused of War Crimes in Afghanistan

Tom Brenner/Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Friday pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan and restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq, a move critics have said would undermine military justice and send a message that battlefield atrocities will be tolerated.

The White House said in a statement Trump granted full pardons to First Lieutenant Clint Lorance and Major Mathew Golsteyn, and ordered that the rank Edward Gallagher held before he was convicted in a military trial this year be restored.

“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,” the statement said.

A Pentagon spokesperson said the Department of Defense has confidence in the military justice system.

“The President is part of the military justice system as the Commander-in-Chief and has the authority to weigh in on matters of this nature,” the spokesperson said.

In recent weeks, Pentagon officials had spoken with Trump about the cases, provided facts and emphasized the due process built into the military justice system.

In 2013, prosecutors accused Lorance of illegally ordering the fatal shootings of two men on motorcycles while on patrol in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. He was found guilty of two counts of murder.

Last year, Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret, was charged with murdering an Afghan man during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan.

Gallagher, a decorated SEAL team platoon leader, was accused of committing various war crimes while deployed in Iraq in 2017.

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. That had led to his rank being reduced.

Golsteyn received word of his pardon from Trump, who spoke with him by telephone for several minutes, Golsteyn’s attorney Phillip Stackhouse said in a statement.

“Our family is profoundly grateful for the president’s action. We have lived in constant fear of this runaway prosecution,” Golsteyn was quoted saying in the statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the president’s action.

“With this utterly shameful use of presidential powers, Trump has sent a clear message of disrespect for law, morality, the military justice system, and those in the military who abide by the laws of war,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement.

In May, Trump talked about how he was considering pardons for U.S. troops charged with war crimes, a move he acknowledged would be controversial but that he said was justified because they had been treated “unfairly.”

The overwhelming majority of pardons are granted to people who have already been convicted and served time for a federal offense.

But presidents have occasionally granted pardons preemptively to individuals accused of or suspected of a crime.

The most famous such case was the blanket pardon President Gerald Ford bestowed on his predecessor, Richard Nixon, after Nixon’s resignation during the Watergate scandal in 1974.

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Azog
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Azog

If a president can free 5 Taliban generals in exchange for a deserter and traitor then a president can pardon 3 Americans who had to make difficult choices in the heat of battle and fog of war.

William Conley
Member

Rueters pulling it’s usual BS bashing trump on anything he does. Here’s their next “report” Trump takes a dump and only flushed once he’s a monster! First off you sad excuses for reporters you didn’t list in detail wtf these men did to be considered a war crime. You listed they ordered some guys to be shot in a warzone, and how one guy supposedly stabbed a prisoner in the neck. Should he have posed with a dead body like it’s a prop definitely not but war is not fair or fun. These “people” saw off civilians heads and rape… Read more »

Phyllis Softa
Member

This article fails to detail WHAT the war crimes entailed. That would be essential in knowing if the pardons were worth as Sec Esper put it ” undermining military justice.”

Jason Alsbrook
Member

What a shock. Rueters is whining about something Trump did. That’s never happened before. I say good for him. They shouldn’t have been convicted to begin with.

Friend
Member

The real problem here is we have an enemy that doesn’t follow the rules of engagement, so it hinders and ties the hands of our military because we have to follow those rules! Add to that a military that’s now embracing transgenders and wants the government to pay for their surgeries if they decide they want to be a transgender. What an incentive to get someone who’s mentally messed up to join the service!

Sherri
Member

#ThankYouTrump

Karin Callaway
Member

Thank you Mr. President for standing for our military might. The governing units of the military have gotten out of hand. They talk about atrocities of our soldiers and yet they don’t say too much about all the atrocities of our enemies, unless it is to score points. Excuse me. If i have some so and so coming at me, a 5’1″ 77 year old, female widow of a 30 year veteran, there would be no further stepping for that person. My husband told me about the lies in the news for Korea, Viet Nam, Cuba, and SARS. And we… Read more »

Bonnie Keever
Member

Good that they have been released

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