President Trump issued a full pardon for two U.S. Army officers Clint Lorance and Mathew Golsteyn convicted and accused of murdering Taliban militants, and a reinstatement of a previously demoted rank for U.S. Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was exonerated of murder charges of an ISIS militant.
The moves were announced in a White House statement late Friday, approximately one week after reports indicated that Trump was preparing for the move, and despite Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s urges against Trump’s intervention.
Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance was sentenced to 19 years in prison for giving an order to kill two suspected Taliban militants while in Afghanistan in July 2012. Lorance believed the two militants to be scouts that were previously identified by a military pilot.
“He has served more than six years of a 19-year sentence he received. Many Americans have sought executive clemency for Lorance, including 124,000 people who have signed a petition to the White House, as well as several members of Congress,” the White House statement said.
Army Maj. Matt Golsteyn was charged with premeditated murder and was scheduled to face a court-martial in December for his admitted February 2010 killing of a Taliban bomb maker he believed to be responsible for killing several men in his unit. He was later cleared of the act after the Army determined there was insufficient evidence to charge him. In December 2018, they suddenly announced charges against him.
“After nearly a decade-long inquiry and multiple investigations, a swift resolution to the case of Major Golsteyn is in the interests of justice,” the White House statement said. “Clemency for Major Golsteyn has broad support.”
Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher was formerly an E-7 rank (Chief Petty Officer) before he was accused of murdering an ISIS fighter, a charge he was later cleared of, along with other charges.
“Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified,” the White House statement said.
Defense Secretary Esper reportedly met with Trump earlier this month to dissuade him from intervening in the cases. He had told reporters earlier this month that he has “full confidence in the military justice system.”
Fox News host Pete Hegseth, an Army veteran who has been a strong advocate for the three war crimes cases, had announced Trump’s impending announcement earlier this month after he met with the president for a discussion.
“The United States military justice system helps ensure good order and discipline for our millions of uniformed military members and holds to account those who violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Due in part to this system, we have the most disciplined, most effective, most respected, and most feared fighting force in the world,” the White House statement said on Friday.
“The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted. For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history. As the President has stated, ‘when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.’” the statement added.