President Trump has pardoned two Army officers accused or convicted of war crimes and a restored a sailor’s rank after he had been convicted of posing for a photo with a dead Islamic State fighter, the White House announced on Friday.
Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance was released from prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Friday night and reunited with his family after serving six years in prison for second-degree murder.
Major Matt Golsteyn, a former Green Beret, will also have a murder charge against him dropped, and Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher has had his rank restored to chief petty officer.
“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 White House said in a statement Friday night.
The Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus, led by Reps Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), put out a statement applauding the president for taking the “bold action” to defend the nation’s warriors.
**The Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus Applaud @realDonaldTrump for Taking Bold Action to Defend Nation's Warriors** #clintlorance #mattgolsteyn #eddiegallagher @replouiegohmert @Rep_Hunter pic.twitter.com/yv12dEXlEe
— Justice For Warriors Caucus (@JFWCaucus) November 16, 2019
Lorance was serving a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth for ordering his soldiers to open fire and kill three men who were approaching him and his men on motorcycles “with unusual speed” in one of the most active battle zones in Afghanistan. Lorence’s supporters said he killed Taliban fighters, but “nine members of his unit testified against him, saying the men were innocent,” Fox News reported.
Major Mathew Golsteyn, an officer of the United States Army and graduate of West Point, was charged with premeditated murder in the 2010 death of a suspected Taliban bomb maker and was set to stand trial next month.
According to the White House statement, the terrorist bombmaker had been identified by an Afghan informant.
As our forces cleared the Taliban from the city of Marjah, an Improvised Explosive Device detonated, killing two Marines. The terrorist bombmaker, as identified by an Afghan informant, who had killed our troops, was detained and questioned. Golsteyn was compelled to release him, however, due in part to deficiencies within the fledgling Afghan detention system. Golsteyn has said he later shot the terrorist because he was certain that the terrorist’s bombmaking activities would continue to threaten American troops and their Afghan partners, including Afghan civilians who had helped identify him. After nearly a decade-long inquiry and multiple investigations, a swift resolution to the case of Major Golsteyn is in the interests of justice.
The president had tweeted last month that he was reviewing Golsteyn’s case. “Mathew is a highly decorated Green Beret who is being tried for killing a Taliban bomb maker,” the president wrote. “We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!” he wrote.
The case of Major Mathew Golsteyn is now under review at the White House. Mathew is a highly decorated Green Beret who is being tried for killing a Taliban bombmaker. We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill! @PeteHegseth
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2019
Golsteyn’s wife Julie expressed her gratitude to the president on Twitter Friday evening:
#mattgolsteyn & I are so grateful for @realDonaldTrump decision to end 8 yrs of persecution. We were fortunate enough to speak with him & @vp today. It was a warm, friendly, & delightful conversation! We are blessed to have a true leader in the WH! @PeteHegseth @foxandfriends
— Julie Golsteyn (@GolsteynJulie) November 16, 2019
On Fox and Friends Saturday morning, Golsteyn said the president showed “an incredible display of courage” by intervening in the military war crimes cases.
Golsteyn said the president was “just incredibly sanguine and warm and demonstrated an amazing degree of knowledge about the case and what had been going on.”
He said that while receiving a call from the president was “was an incredible honor,” he was “also quite funny.”
Golsteyn’s wife Julie chimed in that the president was compassionate.
“To have the ability to look forward to even just the holidays, let alone the remainder of our lives and our children’s’ lives, I can’t explain the burden that’s been lifted,” she said.
“Because we have dealt with nefarious people for too long and to have someone have the moral courage to step up and give us our life back — and that’s another thing the president said is to give you your life back — that’s exactly what he did,” she added.
The president also restored 15-year SEAL Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s rank to chief petty officer after he was convicted for posing with a dead Islamic State (ISIS) fighter.
Gallagher was found not guilty of murdering an ISIS fighter in Iraq in 2017 but was convicted in July of a lesser charge of posing for a photo with the dead ISIS prisoner’s corpse.
His punishment included a reduction in rank from chief petty officer to 1st class petty officer, which would have cost him about $200,000 in retirement funds. His family and defense team were fighting to have his rank restored.
“There are no words to adequately express how grateful my family and I are to our president, Donald J. Trump, for his intervention and decision,” Eddie Gallagher said in a public statement Friday night. “We would also like to thank the American people for their unwavering support during this very difficult time for my family and I — we can never thank you enough.”
“I truly believe that we are blessed as a nation to have a commander in chief that stands up for our war fighters, and cares about how they and their families are treated,” he said.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy had argued against pardoning the three men, arguing that it would set a bad example to other troops in the field, and undermine the military justice system.
The White House said “the President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted.”
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.”