White House officials have begun the process for issuing presidential pardons for several members of the military accused or convicted of war crimes. Among them is Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL charged with shooting unarmed civilians and killing a captive while deployed in Iraq, the New York Times reports. The White House sent expedited requests for the required paperwork to the Justice Department on Friday so that President Trump could issue the pardons around Memorial Day. Among others on the list:
- An ex-Blackwater contractor, Nicholas Slatten, who was among those who shot dozens of Iraqis, killing 17, in 2007.
- An Army Green Beret, Matthew Golsteyn, who allegedly shot and killed an unarmed Afghan in 2010.
- Several Marine Corps snipers charged with urinating on dead Taliban soldiers.
Trump has praised Gallagher and called Golsteyn a hero; he recently had Gallagher moved to a "less restrictive" prison. Republican members of Congress had called for his release before trial, per the New York Post. Gallagher's lawyer hesitated at that, saying, "We want the opportunity to exonerate my client" at trial, per the Times, but added that Trump's intervention would be welcome. Fellow SEALs say Gallagher indiscriminately shot civilians, including a young woman and an unarmed old man, and bragged in texts about stabbing a teenage captive. "Presidents use pardons to send messages," said a former US pardon attorney under presidents of both parties. "If this president is planning to pardon a bunch of people charged with war crimes, he will use the pardon power to send a far darker message." (Trump pardoned a soldier convicted of killing a terrorist suspect.)