Trump pardons soldiers accused of war crimes


Andrew Craft / AP Photo

In this June 27, 2019, file photo. Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, a former Army Special Forces soldier, leaves an arraignment hearing with his lawyer.

President Donald Trump on Friday issued two pardons for soldiers convicted of war crimes and issued an order reversing the demotion of acquitted Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher.

Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance was convicted in August 2013 of killing three unarmed Afghan civilians in Helmand Province in 2012.

According to a court filing, Lorance ordered a member of his platoon to shoot three men who were walking back to their motorcycles. Two were killed instantly and a third fled to a nearby village. At trial, two soldiers under Lorance’s command testified that the men posed no threat, but Lorance ordered them to fire their weapons anyway.

Fox News published a photograph of Lorance reuniting with family members after his release from a prison in Kansas, where he was serving a 19-year sentence.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement cited at least 20 members of Congress who have called for executive clemency for Lorance, including Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger.

Mathew Golsteyn, a Green Beret, was accused of killing a suspected bomb maker in 2010. Trump tweeted last year that he was considering Golsteyn’s case.

“After nearly a decade-long inquiry and multiple investigations, a swift resolution to the case of Major Golsteyn is in the interests of justice,” Grisham said.

And Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Edward Gallagher was convicted in 2017 of killing and posing for a photo with a captured Islamic State fighter. He was acquitted on six of the seven charges he was facing earlier this year, and he was demoted to the rank of Petty Officer 1st Class. 

“Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome,” Grisham said. “Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified.”

Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said on Twitter that “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.”