President Donald Trump on Friday ignored U.S. military leaders’ advice and intervened in military war crimes cases by granting a full pardon to three service members who Trump labeled “killing machines.” All were facing war crimes allegations.
According to CNN, Trump granted a full pardon to Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, a full pardon to Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, and restored the rank of Navy SEAL Eddie R. Gallagher, who had been demoted.
As reported by the news network, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other senior military leaders had told the President that a presidential pardon in these cases could potentially damage the integrity of the military judicial system, the ability of military leaders to ensure good order and discipline, and the confidence of US allies and partners who host US troops.
A U.S. Defense official told CNN that the leadership of the Defense Department made every effort to ensure that the President had all the necessary information at his disposal prior to making this decision.
However, the President moved ahead with the decision, acting on the second day of the House impeachment inquiry’s public hearings. It was also the day that his longtime political adviser and friend Roger Stone was found guilty of lying to and obstructing Congress in a case related to Trump and the release of stolen Democratic emails in 2016 by WikiLeaks.
Privately wary that the President would move against their recommendations, military officials had considered in advance what public posture to take if Trump refused to listen to their advice. Rather than try to explain a decision they cannot endorse, Pentagon officials are expected to simply refer questions to the White House.
“This goes directly to our military culture,” one official told CNN. Another official said, “We all view this possibility as undermining the authority of command” in military units.
Perceptions in the military differ though and the disconnect with the President’s thinking about troops was on clear display after Trump tweeted on October 12 that “the case of Major Mathew Golsteyn is now under review at the White House. Mathew is a highly decorated Green Beret who is being tried for killing a Taliban bombmaker. We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!”
The case of Major Mathew Golsteyn is now under review at the White House. Mathew is a highly decorated Green Beret who is being tried for killing a Taliban bombmaker. We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill! @PeteHegseth
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2019
Soldiers objected quietly, but with emphatic certainty. One young officer, referring to Trump’s “killing machines” comment, said, “that is not who we are.”
An official explained that “the President might think they acted in patriotism, but these were war crimes.” Speaking of Trump’s plans to act on the three servicemembers’ sentences, this official added that “just because he can do it doesn’t mean he should.”
You can read the entire report here.