President Trump issues pardons in war-crimes cases

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FILE – In this June 27, 2019, file photo. Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, a former Army Special Forces soldier, leaves the Fort Bragg courtroom facility with his civilian lawyer, Phillip Stackhouse, right, after an arraignment hearing. President Donald Trump has pardoned a former U.S. Army commando set to stand trial next year in the killing of a suspected Afghan bomb-maker and for a former Army lieutenant who had been convicted of murder after he ordered his men to fire upon three Afghans, killing two, the White House announced late Friday. (Andrew Craft/The Fayetteville Observer via AP)

WASHINGTON (WLNS) – The president pardoned two U.S. Army Soldiers accused of war crimes and restored the rank of a Navy Seal.

President Donald Trump signed an Executive Grant of Clemency for Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, Army Major Mathew Golsteyn and an order to promote Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward R. Gallagher to a Chief Petty Officer, according to a statement from the White House Press Secretary.

Lorance could be released from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, six years into a 19 year sentence after being found guilty of second-degree murder, according to Fox News. In early July 2012, Lorance ordered his soldiers to open fire on three men in Afghanistan which killed two of the three men. Nine members of his unit testified against him, saying the men were innocent.

Golsteyn was scheduled for a murder trial next month, but those charges against him will be dropped. Golsteyn said he shot a terrorist because he was certain that the terrorist’s activities would continue to threaten American troops and their Afghan partners. Golsteyn was charged with premeditated murder in the 2010 death of a suspected Taliban bomb maker. He faced life in prison if convicted and was stripped of his Special Forces tab and Silver Star award for valor.

Gallagher was found not guilty of murdering an ISIS fighter in Iraq in 2017, but was convicted in July of a lesser charge of posing for a photo with the dead ISIS prisoner’s corpse.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Friday night, “The Department of Defense has confidence in the military justice system. The president is part of the military justice system as the commander in chief and has the authority to weigh in on matters of this nature.”

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he had met with the president and discussed the cases.

“I offered — as I do in all matters — the facts, the options, my advice, the recommendations and we’ll see how things play out,” he told reporters at the Pentagon at the time.

“The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted,” said the statement from the White House Press Secretary. The statement goes on to say as the President has stated, “when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.”

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