Mixed messages as Pentagon mulls potential war crimes pardons this Veteran's Day

Jack Murphy
November 07, 2019 - 12:40 pm
Court Martial

DVIDS, Photo by Staff Sgt. Katherine Dowd


Mixed messages are coming out of the Pentagon this week over whether President Donald Trump might pardon alleged and convicted war criminals Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Matthew Golsteyn this Veteran's Day.

Last month, President Trump tweeted out about the two cases, and Fox and Friends anchor Pete Hegseth reported this week that the President himself told him he was considering the pardons.

When questioned about the potential pardons at a briefing today, DoD spokesman Jonathan Hoffman replied, "that's hypothetical. I'm not going to get into it. But I would say, is that the president is part of the military justice system...The presidents in the past taken views and taken actions in the military justice system, and our military justice system has continued to maintain robust. The military's one of the most respected organizations in the entire government, and we have agreements with more than 100 countries to have our forces in-country, and part of that is because our allies and partners know that our people will be held to account for their actions and their behavior. So we are confident that that will maintain going forward, and we're going to continue to improve our system and make it better. But we're confident that we have a strong system that allows us to maintain good order and discipline."

But just yesterday, Business Insider reported that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he has urged the President against this course of action. Although Secretary Esper implored the President not to get involved, Hoffman appeared to soften the message a bit.

Lt. Lorance was convicted of ordering one of his soldiers to open fire on unarmed civilians in Afghanistan as well as obstruction of justice for trying to cover it up. He is currently serving a 19 year sentence in Fort Levenworth. Maj. Golsteyn allegedly confessed during a CIA polygraph to murdering a suspected bomb maker in Afghanistan, then setting his body on fire. His court martial is scheduled for December.

On Fox News, Hegseth also said that Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher would have his rank reinstated by President Trump. Gallagher was accused of murdering a detainee in Iraq, but was acquitted. He was found guilty of taking a picture with the body and was busted down one pay grade.

Connecting Vets reached out to former JAG officer and lawyer Rachel VanLandingham for her opinion.

“President Trump’s threatened pardon of convicted war criminals like Lt. Lorance, on top of pardoning convicted war criminal Lt. Behenna before him, betrays all those in uniform who are honorably serving," VanLandingham said. "It threatens US national security by undermining good order and discipline, casting doubt on the legality and morality of all US military operations, and continues to degrade US legitimacy and soft power around the globe.. President Trump's wanton disregard of his commander-in-chief obligation to ensure war crimes are appropriately punished makes him, in theory, a war criminal himself,  liable for the brutal murders these men committed in disregard of their commanders’ and their nations’ orders not to kill. He should be impeached for such command failures."

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Reach Jack Murphy: jack@connectingvets.com or @JackMurphyRGR.