Report that Trump is preparing to pardon servicemen accused of war crimes triggers critics

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Screen grab … Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher is reportedly in line for a presidential pardon. … Credit: CBS

President Trump is preparing to pardon several U.S. servicemen who have been accused of or convicted of war crimes, according to a Saturday report by the New York Times.

An unnamed military official told the paper the President has requested the necessary paperwork and may intend to issue the pardons on Memorial Day.

Decorated Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher is among those expected to receive a pardon. Military prosecutors allege Gallagher “snapped” in Iraq during his eighth combat tour and was responsible for the killing of unarmed civilians and a prisoner of war. His defense team denies the charges.

In January of this year, Rep. Duncan Hunter called on Trump to dismiss Gallagher’s case. “Chief Gallagher stands accused of murder in the killing of a verified ISIS combatant in a warzone based on inconsistent testimony and without any physical evidence,” Hunter wrote. “It is important to remember that this ISIS combatant was engaged in an extensive firefight with Chief Gallagher’s team and was already significantly injured when captured. No credible evidence has been provided that this ISIS fighter was murdered as opposed to dying from his terrorist actions.”

The President recently ordered him transferred to a “less restrictive” prison in recognition for his past meritorious service to his country, while several Republican lawmakers had requested Gallagher be released before his trial.

The Times reported that others who might be on the list of pardons include Army Green Beret Mathew Golsteyn, accused of killing an unarmed civilian; Nicholas Slatten, a former Blackwater guard found guilty of shooting dozens of unarmed Iraqis; and a group of Marine snipers accused of urinating on a dead Taliban fighter’s corpse.

Earlier this month, Army Ranger Michael Behenna was pardoned by the President after serving five years in prison for the unpremeditated killing of a known al-Qaeda operative, which occurred while questioning him about a roadside bombing that had killed two members of Behenna’s platoon. Behenna insisted he shot him in self-defense.

Liberals in the media and on social media are reacting as expected, seizing on the opportunity to accuse the President of sending the message that he tolerates war crimes.

Conservatives are more apt to support well-considered pardons for service members, particularly for those in the high-stress environment of war. It can be particularly frustrating when civilian courts baby enemy combatants.


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