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CNN: Esper to try dissuading Trump from intervening in Gallagher, Golsteyn, Lorance cases

President Donald J. Trump addresses his remarks at the swearing-in ceremony for new Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
November 06, 2019

Defense Secretary Mark Esper is preparing to brief President Donald Trump on a number of military case details in an effort to dissuade Trump from intervening in ongoing cases relating to U.S. service members accused of war crimes, a new report claims.

According to unnamed military officials speaking to CNN, Esper and other military officials grew worried about President Trump potentially launching a review of the charges against Army Lt. Clint Lorance and Army Green Beret Maj. Matt Golsteyn, as well as Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher. Esper is reportedly working to provide Trump with a briefing of the cases, which he hopes will encourage Trump to side with the rulings of military court judges ruling on war crimes cases.

Esper is expected to intervene on the rumored Trump decision and explain the severity of the charges against Lorance and Golsteyn before Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11. Trump’s potential action was announced by Fox News host Pete Hegseth, who said he met with Trump last weekend to discuss the issue.

Lorance was sentenced to 20 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to shoot at two suspected Taliban militants in Afghanistan in July 2012. Lorence believed the two suspected Taliban members were scouts previously identified by a military pilot.

Golsteyn has been charged with premeditated murder for his admitted February 2010 killing of a man he believed to be a Taliban bomb maker responsible for killing a number of his teammates. Golsteyn’s case is still ongoing.

In October, Trump appeared to criticize the proceeding against Golsteyn, and said, “We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!”

While Gallagher was cleared of the primary charge that he murdered an ISIS prisoner, he was sentenced to a reduced rank after he was found guilty of posing for pictures with the body of the slain ISIS fighter, alongside 11 others, including his unit commander. However, Gallagher was the only one charged with the crime. According to a Fox News report, Trump is considering returning Gallagher to his previous rank.

“The President might think they acted in patriotism, but these were war crimes,” one unnamed official told CNN.

Two other defense officials warned that returning Gallagher to his full rank would be disruptive to the SEAL community and its leadership.

According to CNN, several military officials are considering how to handle Trump’s potential pardons, though one official said the military will ultimately defer to his decision.