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Pardons, Promotion From Trump, Despite Pentagon Pushback

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he had a 'robust discussion' with the president on this
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 16, 2019 5:30 AM CST
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In this June 27, 2019, photo, Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, a former Army Special Forces soldier, leaves the Fort Bragg courtroom facility with his civilian lawyer, Phillip Stackhouse, right, after an arraignment hearing.   (Andrew Craft/The Fayetteville Observer via AP)

(Newser) – President Trump has pardoned a former US Army commando set to stand trial next year in the killing of a suspected Afghan bomb-maker and a former Army lieutenant convicted of murder for ordering his men to fire upon three Afghans, killing two, the White House announced late Friday. The commander in chief also ordered a promotion for a decorated Navy SEAL convicted of posing with a dead Islamic State captive in Iraq, the AP reports. CNN and the Washington Post report the pardons and promotion came despite Pentagon opposition. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that the president is responsible for ensuring the law is enforced and that "mercy is granted," when appropriate. One of the pardons went to Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, a former Green Beret accused of killing a suspected bomb-maker during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan.

The second pardon went to 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, convicted of murder for ordering his soldiers to fire upon three unarmed Afghan men in July 2012, killing two. Trump also ordered a promotion for Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Edward Gallagher, the Navy SEAL convicted of posing with a dead ISIS captive in Iraq in 2017. Gallagher was in line for a promotion before he was prosecuted, but he lost that and was reduced in rank after the conviction. Hina Shamsi, an American Civil Liberties Union director, said the actions amounted to an "utterly shameful use of presidential powers." Asked last week if he supported the exoneration of Gallagher, Golsteyn, and Lorance, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters he had a "robust discussion" with the president about the issue and offered his advice and recommendations. "I do have full confidence in the military justice system and we'll let things play out as they play out," he said.

(Read more presidential pardon stories.)

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