Military Law

Donald Trump in September 2018 at UN General Assembly

President Donald Trump in 2018. Photo from Shutterstock.com.

President Donald Trump pardoned Friday two military service members and reversed the demotion of a third who was acquitted of murder after dramatic testimony.

Trump granted full pardons to Clint Lorance and Mathew Golsteyn and reversed the demotion of Edward Gallagher. The Washington Post, the New York Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune and Politico have coverage; a White House statement is here.

Gallagher, a former Navy SEAL, was acquitted of murdering an Islamic State prisoner after another SEAL who was offered immunity for his testimony said it was he who killed the detainee, not Gallagher. Gallagher was convicted, however, of posing with the corpse in a photo.

Gallagher was also in the news when his lawyers received an email from military prosecutors containing tracking software, part of an apparent attempt to investigate unauthorized leaks of information.

Lorance, a former Army lieutenant, was convicted for ordering his men to fire on three men in Afghanistan riding a motorcycle, resulting in the deaths of two of them, according to the White House statement. He has served more than six years of a 19-year sentence.

Golsteyn, an Army Special Forces officer, has not yet been tried on murder charges for allegedly killing an unarmed Afghan man he suspected of bomb making. Trump referred to Golsteyn in a tweet in October. “We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!” he tweeted.

The press release says Trump is “ultimately responsible” as commander in chief to determine when “mercy is granted.” As Trump has said, the press release says, “When our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.”

According to the New York Times and the Washington Post, top military leaders have reportedly opposed clemency because of fears that it would undermine the military justice system.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Defense lawyers accuse military prosecutor of sending them emails with tracking software”

ABAJournal.com: “Acquitted Navy SEAL says ex-lawyers delayed case, maximizing fundraising potential”