President Donald Trump intervened Friday in three high profile military criminal cases involving war crimes, a decision that ignored the strong advice of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and many of his most senior commanders.
Trump granted a full pardon to Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, a full pardon to Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, and restored the rank of Navy SEAL Eddie R. Gallagher, who had been demoted.
Military leaders had conveyed to the President that a presidential pardon could potentially damage the integrity of the military judicial system, the ability of military leaders to ensure good order and discipline, and the confidence of US allies and partners who host US troops.
A US Defense official told CNN that the leadership of the Defense Department made every effort to ensure that the President had all the necessary information at his disposal prior to making this decision.
Even so, the President moved ahead with the decision, acting on the second day of the House impeachment inquiry’s public hearings. It was also the day that his longtime political adviser and friend Roger Stone was found guilty of lying to and obstructing Congress in a case related to Trump and the release of stolen Democratic emails in 2016 by WikiLeaks.
“The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted,” the White House said in a statement. “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.’ “