Friday, President Donald Trump cleared three members of the armed services all of whom had either been accused or convicted of war crimes, multiple news outlets reported.
Defenders of the three, whose pardons were first reported by Fox News, have portrayed the military men as war heroes unfairly prosecuted for actions taken in the heat and confusion of battle.
Trump announced he was ordering the release of Clint Lorance, a former Army lieutenant, from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he is serving a 19-year sentence for the murder of two civilians.
He also ordered the dropping of murder charges against Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, an Army Special Forces officer whose trial was scheduled for December.
And he reversed the demotion of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was acquitted of murder charges but convicted of a lesser offense over the summer.
According to the New York Times, the moves signaled Trump intends to use his power as commander in chief to be the ultimate arbiter of military justice in ways unlike any other president in modern times.
The Gallagher announcement first came via Fox & Friends broadcast on Nov. 4, surprising Pentagon officials, who scrambled to send a packet of information on the cases to the White House, Military Times reported.
In the high-profile case, though acquitted of murder and obstruction of justice charges in July, his military jury recommended he be reduced in grade for posing with the body of a detainee, a crime he never denied, Military Times reported.
Lorance’s case dates back to a 2012 deployment to Afghanistan, when he ordered his soldiers to fire on three unarmed men riding a motorcycle near their patrol, Military Times reported.
Members of his platoon testified against him at a court-martial trial, describing the former Army lieutenant as over-zealous and the Afghans as posing no threat to the soldiers.
Sentenced to 19 years, Lorance and his family had waged a long campaign against his sentence. His mother made an unanswered appeal to President Barrack Obama in 2016, earning support from combat veteran Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who left the Marine Corps as a major, Military Times noted.
Golsteyn’s case had been scheduled for a December trial on charges he murdered an alleged Taliban bomb maker, and burned his remains in a trash pit during a 2010 deployment with 3rd Special Forces Group, Military Times reported.