U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday pardoned two Army officials accused of war crimes in Afghanistan and revived the position of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who had been demoted for activities in Iraq, a move critics have said could endanger military prosecution and deliver a message which battle atrocities would be tolerated.
The White House said in a statement Trump granted full pardons to First Lieutenant Clint Lorance and Major Mathew Golsteyn, also ordered that the position Edward Gallagher held earlier he had been convicted at a military trial that this season be revived.
“For over two hundred decades, presidents have used their ability to provide second opportunities to deserving people, such as those in uniform who have served our nation. These activities are in keeping with this history,” the announcement said.
“The President is a part of the military justice system since the Commander-in-Chief and can weigh in on issues of this type,” the spokesperson said.
Recently, Pentagon officials had spoken with Trump about the instances, given details and highlighted the expected process built into the military justice system.
He had been found guilty of 2 counts of murder.
Gallagher, a decorated SEAL group platoon leader, was accused of committing numerous war offenses while deployed in Iraq in 2017.
Back in July, a military jury acquitted him of murdering a captured Islamic Army fighter by stabbing at the injured prisoner in the throat, however, it convicted him of posing together with the detainee’s corpse. That had contributed to his position being diminished.
Golsteyn received word of his pardon from Trump, who talked with him by phone for many moments, Golsteyn’s lawyer Phillip Stackhouse said in a statement.
“Our family is deeply thankful for the president’s actions. We’ve lived in continuous fear of the runaway prosecution,” Golsteyn was quoted saying in the announcement.
“With this completely black use of atomic powers, Trump has sent a very clear message of disrespect for law, regulation, the military justice system, and also people from the army that perish by the laws of warfare,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement.
In May, Trump spoke about how he had been contemplating pardons for U.S. troops charged with war crimes, a movement he confessed would be contentious but that he explained was warranted since they were treated”unfairly.”
The overwhelming bulk of pardons are given to individuals who’ve been convicted and served time for a federal offense.
However, presidents have sometimes allowed pardons preemptively to people accused of or suspected of a crime.
The most well-known such case was that the blanket pardon President Gerald Ford bestowed on his predecessor, Richard Nixon, following Nixon’s resignation through the Watergate scandal in 1974.