President Donald Trump is preparing to review pardons for Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher and Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, and possibly other U.S. service members accused of crimes, The New York Times reported over the weekend.
Trump could pardon the service members on Memorial Day or around that time, and he has asked the Justice Department to prepare the necessary paperwork for that timeframe, The Times said, citing two unnamed U.S. officials.
Breaking News: President Trump is showing signs he will pardon several servicemen accused of war crimes. He asked for paperwork to be prepared by Memorial Day https://t.co/W2muoIhApN
— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 18, 2019
Gallagher, a 15-year Navy SEAL, is charged with premeditated murder, accused of stabbing and killing a critically wounded ISIS fighter during a 2017 deployment to Mosul. He is also accused of shooting at unarmed civilians. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is set to begin May 28.
However, the prosecution’s behavior in the case has been tainted with wrongdoing and unethical behavior, Gallagher’s defense team has said. Earlier this month, Gallagher’s defense confirmed that a Navy prosecutor admitted in court that he illegally spied on Navy SEAL defense lawyers and a member of the media. The defense is moving to dismiss the entire case.
Golsteyn’s case has also come under Trump’s radar. Golsteyn is accused of murdering a Taliban bomb maker in 2010.
That year, he admitted to the CIA during a job interview to killing the terrorist whom he said was responsible for the bombs that killed two other U.S. service members. There was an investigation at the time, and Golsteyn was cleared of wrongdoing after the Army determined there was insufficient evidence to charge him.
But then, in 2016, Golsteyn appeared in a Fox News interview and admitted to killing the bomb maker again, and the Army opened a second investigation, charging Golsteyn with premeditated murder, which carries a potential life sentence in prison or the death penalty.
Just last week, the Army decided that the case would move forward to a court-martial trial. No date has been set yet.
The President is also said to be considering pardons for a former Blackwater security contractor, who was recently found guilty of shooting dozens of unarmed Iraqis in 2007, and a group of Marine Corps snipers who are charged with urinating on dead Taliban corpses, the Times reported.
According to the Times, “The White House sent requests on Friday to the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, which alerted the military branches, according to one senior military official. Pardon files include background information and details on criminal charges, and in many cases include letters describing how the person in question has made amends.”
“The official said while assembling pardon files typically takes months, the Justice Department stressed that all files would have to be complete before Memorial Day weekend, because the President planned to pardon the men then. A second United States official confirmed the request concerning Chief Gallagher,” the Times noted.