By Ken Stone
President Trump has restored Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher to the rank of chief petty officer after being docked a pay grade in the wake of his posing for a photo with a dead ISIS fighter, the White House said Friday.
Rep. Duncan D. Hunter hailed that move and two others — Trump granting clemency to Army officers Clint Lorance and Matt Golsteyn, both accused of war crimes.
“While today is a victory for our warfighters, I will remain committed to fixing our broken military justice system,” Hunter said in a tweet.
The White House said Trump granted full pardons to 1st Lt. Lorance and Maj. 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.”
Hunter was cited in the White House statement as being among lawmakers seeking executive clemency for Lorance and Golsteyn along with 124,000 people who signed a petition to the White House.
Six years after being found guilty of second-degree murder, Lorance was serving a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth for ordering his soldiers to open fire and kill three men in Afghanistan, Fox News noted.
“Golsteyn, a former Green Beret, who will have his murder charge dropped,” Fox News said.
In a statement, Hunter said: “For years, rampant prosecutorial misconduct, political correctness, and procedures that weigh the scales of justice against the accused have personified our military justice system. Self-serving military bureaucrats have felt empowered in instituting policies that have been damning to our warriors on the front lines.”
But thanks to Trump’s leadership, he said, “these Pentagon armchair lawyers are being put on notice. The president recognizes that our combat warriors are to be supported in meeting the incredible responsibilities we place on them and I very much appreciate his advocacy for America’s warfighters.”
In May, Hunter raised eyebrows when he told a Ramona audience that “Eddie did one bad thing that I’m guilty of too — taking a picture of the body and saying something stupid.”
The Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan said he’s taken pictures “just like that when I was overseas” — although he didn’t text or post images to social media. “But a lot of my peers … have done the exact same thing.”
Hunter — facing a Jan. 22 federal trial on campaign spending misconduct charges — on Friday said the president’s action takes a “big step forward in righting past wrongs.”
“These brave military families can now move forward rebuilding their lives and, in the meantime, I’ll continue working with my colleagues on the Justice for Warriors Caucus to ensure similar miscarriages of justice are both addressed and, hopefully, never happen again,” he said.
In a statement quoted by KUSI, Gallagher said:
“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. We would also like to thank the American people for their unwavering support during this very difficult time for my family and I – we can never thank you enough.
He thanked his wife, Andrea, three children and his brother Sean, plus others including his legal team.
“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,” Gallagher said. “Our military is the best in the world, and with steadfast and supportive leadership; like we have in this President, our fighting force will only get stronger.”
Trump’s son Eric tweeted his approval: “I hope no one who serves our country and volunteers to do the unthinkable is ever treated like this again!”
I hope no one who serves our country and volunteers to do the unthinkable is ever treated like this again! Great job @realDonaldTrump!
“US Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher has had his rank restored by President Trump” pic.twitter.com/g1l5Yn5VWd
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) November 16, 2019
Task and Purpose reported that Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth said Nov. 4 that Trump would soon restore Gallagher’s former rank and stop the Navy from taking away his SEAL trident.
“Hegseth also said the president would exonerate former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn,” the site said.
The rest of the White House statement:
In early July 2012, only days after Lieutenant Lorance had taken command of his platoon in one of the most dangerous battle zones in Afghanistan, a motorcycle with three men approached him and his men with unusual speed. Under difficult circumstances and prioritizing the lives of American troops, Lorance ordered his men to engage, and two of the three men were killed. Following these events, Lorance was convicted of several charges. He has served more than six years of a 19-year sentence he received. 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.
While today is a victory for our warfighters, I will remain committed to fixing our broken military justice system. Thank you @realDonaldTrump for your continued leadership on this issue.#FreeEddieGallagher #FreeMattGolsteyn #FreeClintLorance @JFWCaucus pic.twitter.com/KZLqJmvL0f
— Rep. Duncan Hunter (@Rep_Hunter) November 16, 2019
Major Mathew Golsteyn, an officer of the United States Army and graduate of West Point, is currently set to stand trial for an allegedly unlawful killing in connection with one of the largest battles of the Afghanistan War. As our forces cleared the Taliban from the city of Marjah, an Improvised Explosive Device detonated, killing two Marines. The terrorist bombmaker, as identified by an Afghan informant, who had killed our troops, was detained and questioned. Golsteyn was compelled to release him, however, due in part to deficiencies within the fledgling Afghan detention system. 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 decade-long 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.
Before the prosecution of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher, he had been selected for promotion to Senior Chief, awarded a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor, and assigned to an important position in the Navy as an instructor. Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified.
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.
The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted. For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history. As the President has stated, “when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.”
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