President Donald Trump on Saturday, Nov. 16, signed an Executive Grant of Clemency for a former U.S. Army commando set to stand trial next year and a former Army lieutenant convicted of murder.
The commander in chief also ordered a promotion for a decorated Navy SEAL convicted of posing with a dead ISIS captive in Iraq.
“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,” White House said in a written statement.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham explained that the president is responsible for ensuring the law is enforced and that “mercy is granted,” when appropriate.
“For more than 200 years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country,” she said. “These actions are in keeping with this long history.”
President Trump said earlier this year that he was considering issuing the pardons.
“Some of these soldiers are people that have fought hard and long,” he said in May. “You know, we teach them how to be great fighters, and then when they fight sometimes they get really treated very unfairly.”
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. Golsteyn was leading a team of Army Special Forces at the time and believed that the man was responsible for an explosion that killed two U.S. Marines. He has argued that the Afghan was a legal target because of his behavior at the time of the shooting.
White House’s statement gave more details, “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 decadelong inquiry and multiple investigations, a swift resolution to the case of Major Golsteyn is in the interests of justice. Clemency for Major Golsteyn has broad support, including from Representatives Louie Gohmert, Duncan Hunter, Mike Johnson, Ralph Abraham, and Clay Higgins, American author and Marine combat veteran Bing West, and Army combat veteran Pete Hegseth.”
The second pardon went to 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who had been convicted of murder for ordering his soldiers to fire upon three unarmed Afghan men in July 2012, killing two. Lorance has served more than six years of a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
White House added, “Many Americans have sought executive clemency for Lorance, including 124,000 people who have signed a petition to the White House, as well as several members of Congress, including Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, and Representatives Steve Scalise, Garret Graves, Duncan Hunter, Paul Gosar, Adam Kinzinger, Scott Perry, Brian Babin, Neal Dunn, Michael Waltz, Louie Gohmert, Daniel Webster, Steve King, Ralph Norman, Mark Meadows, Clay Higgins, Ralph Abraham, Mike Johnson, and Jody Hice.”
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.
“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,” Gallagher said in a statement on Instagram. “I truly believe that we are blessed as a nation to have a commander-in-chief that stands up for our warfighters, and cares about how they and their families are treated.”
Golsteyn’s trial by court-martial initially had been scheduled for December but was postponed until Feb. 19 to give attorneys more time to prepare.
In a statement Friday, Golsteyn said his family is “profoundly grateful” for Trump’s pardon.
“We have lived in constant fear of this runaway prosecution. Thanks to President Trump, we now have a chance to rebuild our family and lives. With time, I hope to regain my immense pride in having served in our military,” Golsteyn said.
His defense attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, said he was “confident we would have prevailed in trial, but this action by the President expedited justice in this case.”
Defense officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper met with Trump and provided him information on the cases.
The White House’s statement noted, “The United States military justice system helps ensure good order and discipline for our millions of uniformed military members and holds to account those who violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Due in part to this system, we have the most disciplined, most effective, most respected, and most feared fighting force in the world.”
It concluded by a saying of President Trump, “when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.”
Includes reporting from the Associated Press