Trump Grants Clemency to Three U.S. Service Members

Justice is finally served for Clint Lorance, Matt Golsteyn and Eddie Gallegher.

President Donald Trump granted clemency to three members of the United States military – two army officers and a Navy SEAL. The three – Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, former Green Beret, Maj. Matt Golsteyn, and Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher – received full pardons over the weekend.

Maj. Golsteyn had been accused of murdering an unarmed Taliban bomb-maker. He believed that the terrorist would kill again if released; not an unreasonable assumption given the recidivist rate among released terrorists. An initial Army probe found insufficient evidence to bring charges but a second probe, opened six years later, found sufficient evidence to move forward with a murder charge. Golsteyn was charged in December 2018 and was due to begin trial.

Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher was acquitted in 2019 of killing an ISIS terrorist in Iraq in 2017. He was however, found guilty of posing with a dead ISIS terrorist and received a reduction in rank, which cost him about $200,000 in retirement funds. His rank will now be restored.

Lt. Clint Lorance was convicted in 2013 for the murder of two Afghan motorcyclists. He was serving his sixth year of 19-year sentence when Trump issued the full pardon. Like Golsteyn and Gallagher, Lorance’s case could have been scripted right out of a chapter from Orwell’s 1984.

In July 2012 Lorance led his platoon on a patrol in Kandahar in an area known to be a hotbed of insurgent activity. He was informed by pilots who reconnoitered the area that motorcycle-mounted Taliban terrorists were active in the vicinity. The Taliban routinely employ motorcycles to track U.S. patrols. Moments later, Lorance spotted Afghans riding motorcycles near his patrol. With the information that he already had at his disposal and with the safety of his platoon being paramount, Lorance immediately made a command decision during the fog of war and ordered one of his snipers to neutralize what he considered to be a threat to the well-being of his men. Two motorcyclists were killed and a third escaped. The Afghans were unarmed and this was the basis for the Army’s decision to charge Lorance with murder and violating the Army’s Rules of Engagement.

Biometric evidence, which was withheld from Lorance’s legal defense team, linked one of the dead to an improvised explosive device. The man’s DNA was found on a detonated roadside bomb. In addition, there was evidence suggesting that some of those who testified against Lorance were coerced by Army prosecutors to do so with threats of criminal prosecution.  

Lorance, Gallagher and Golsteyn were heroes who volunteered to put their lives on the line in service of their country. All three were exemplary servicemen whose records reflected a history bravery and courage. But instead of being treated like heroes, they were treated like common criminals by the very government they swore to protect.

But unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump has demonstrated an innate ability to seek out justice and sense injustice. The instant pardons (as well as past Trump pardons) are a reflection of this.

By contrast, while Obama rejected pardon pleas for Lorance, he granted clemency for Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning), the transgender intelligence officer who leaked sensitive top secret information and compromised America’s national security. Thanks to Obama, the treasonous Manning served barely seven years of a 35-year sentence.  Obama also commuted the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was part of a Puerto Rican terrorist organization that carried out multiple, indiscriminate bombings in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Finally, in 2014 Obama released five hardened Taliban terrorists for Bowe Bergdahl, a deserter whose desertion jeopardized American servicemen serving in Afghanistan. Bergdahl was later court martialed and pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Prior to his conviction, Obama’s oleaginous national security advisor, Susan Rice, told echo chamber media outlets that Bergdahl served his nation with “honor and distinction.” The absurdity of this characterization cannot be overstated.

At least three of the five terrorists released for Bergdahl either resumed their terrorist activities or attempted to reconnect with their former Taliban employers. Moreover, the release of the detainees without giving Congress adequate notice violated the law. Under the National Defense Authorization Act, a law passed by Congress and signed by Obama, the administration was required to provide notice to four Senate and four House committees at least 30-days prior to the release of detainees from Guantánamo. But notice was only given by phone on the actual day of the exchange, which occurred on May 31, 2014. Consequently, the chief counsel for the Government Accountability Office determined that the Pentagon had illegally spent the money used to facilitate the prisoner exchange.

The contrast between the two presidents and their use of pardoning power could not be starker. Trump used the power to grant clemency for those who truly served their country with honor and distinction. Obama by contrast used and abused his power by granting clemency to those who hate America and compromised its national security.