Trump issues pardons in 3 highly publicized military justice cases

November 16, 2019

One of the most significant forms of authority conferred upon the occupant of the Oval Office is the discretion to grant clemency to those accused or convicted of criminal offenses.

President Donald Trump exercised that particular executive power on Friday to grant full pardons to two Army officers accused of war crimes — one currently serving a 19-year sentence, the other facing a murder charge — and to restore the rank of a Navy SEAL who was acquitted of a murder charge but convicted on a lesser charge, Fox News reported.

Presidential grants of clemency

In a statement from the White House issued on Friday, it was announced, “Today, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) for Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, an Executive Grant of Clemency (Full Pardon) for Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, and an order directing the promotion of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward R. Gallagher to the grade of E-7, the rank he held before he was tried and found not guilty of nearly all of the charges against him.”

The statement went on to describe the cases against the three service members and noted that the U.S. military justice system “helps ensure good order and discipline” among all members and was responsible, in part, for producing “the most disciplined, most effective, most respected, and most feared fighting force in the world.”

It further noted that, “The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted.” These three cases would be examples of the commander-in-chief’s decision to extend mercy to those within the system.

Lorance reunited with family

Fox News reported that Lorance had served six years of a 19-year sentence at the Fort Leavenworth military prison following a conviction for second-degree murder over an incident in Afghanistan in which he ordered his men to open fire on three suspected Taliban fighters who approached their vehicle at speed on a motorcycle, killing two of the three.

Some of the men in his unit had claimed the suspected fighters were actually innocent and had testified against him at trial, which led to the conviction. Late Friday night, the president shared a video showing the heartwarming reunion Lorance had with his family following his unexpected early release from prison:

Golsteyn and Gallagher

Golsteyn faced a charge of premeditated murder following a 2010 incident in Afghanistan in which he had admittedly killed a known Taliban bombmaker who had killed some of his men and who was apprehended, but subsequently released. Golsteyn had feared that the bombmaker would soon strike again and set out to ensure that such a thing didn’t happen.

He faced trial next month and was facing a potential life sentence if convicted.

Gallagher is a Navy SEAL who was accused of having murdered an ISIS prisoner in Iraq in 2017, a charge of which he was acquitted. However, he was convicted for a lesser charge of posing for a photograph with the ISIS prisoner’s corpse and was reduced in rank from chief petty officer to 1st class petty officer as part of his punishment.

Grateful families

All three men, as well as their families, have expressed their heartfelt gratitude in response to Trump’s grant of clemency in their respective cases. Those who have supported these men through their trying times will no doubt rejoice over their newfound freedom as well.

Though there will be those who will disagree with the president’s decision — certainly in the media, but also even within the military — that doesn’t really matter, as the president enjoys the full authority to grant clemency as he sees fit, and he has shown that he will not hesitate to do so when he believes the time is right and the circumstances warrant such reprieve.


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Ben Marquis

Ben Marquis is a staff writer for Conservative Institute.