President Trump has granted clemency to two Army officers accused or convicted of war crimes and restored Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher to the rank of chief petty officer after he was docked a pay grade after being convicted of posing for a photo with a dead Islamic State (ISIS) fighter, the White House announced Friday.
Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance could be released from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as soon as Friday evening, six years after being found guilty of second-degree murder, Maj. Matt Golsteyn, a former Green Beret, will have the murder charge against him dropped.
“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,” the White House said in a statement Friday night.
Lorance was six years into serving a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth for ordering his soldiers to open fire and kill three men in Afghanistan. Lorence’s supporters say he killed Taliban fighters. Nine members of his unit testified against him, saying the men were innocent.
Gallagher, a 15-year SEAL whose case garnered national attention, was found not guilty of murdering an ISIS fighter in Iraq in 2017 but was convicted in July of a lesser charge of posing for a photo with the dead ISIS prisoner’s corpse.
His punishment included a reduction in rank from chief petty officer to 1st class petty officer, which would have cost him about $200,000 in retirement funds. His family and defense team were fighting to have his rank restored.
“Restoring Eddie’s rank is a sign of true leadership and shows how much the president cares about the men and women fighting on the ground — and how wrong the bureaucratic brass of the Navy has been throughout this entire farce of a case,” the Gallagher family recently told Fox News in response to reports that Trump might restore Gallagher’s rank. “This is why our war fighters love this president.”
“Letting Eddie retire as chief [petty officer] grants our family the dignity it is owed after two decades of fighting on the front lines of the War on Terror,” they said. “Eddie has sacrificed so much, and we are so grateful the president recognizes this sacrifice and [could grant] Eddie the ability to retire in peace.”
Golsteyn was charged with premeditated murder in the 2010 death of a suspected Taliban bomb maker.
It was the second time the Army investigated the 2010 case after an initial probe didn’t find sufficient evidence to bring charges. A second investigation was opened in 2016 and Golsteyn was charged in December 2018. He faced life in prison if convicted and was stripped of his Special Forces tab and Silver Star award for valor.
Golsteyn was charged with murder after telling Fox News’ Bret Baier in 2016 that he was concerned that if he released the suspected Taliban bomber, he would strike again. At one point, Baier asked Golsteyn if he’d killed the Taliban bomber.
“Yes,” Golsteyn replied.
His family had called the case a “complete set-up,” a “farce” and a “kangaroo court.”
Trump had tweeted on Oct. 12 that he was reviewing Golsteyn’s case.
“Matthew is a highly decorated Green Beret who is being tried for killing a Taliban bomb maker,” the president wrote. “We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!
Matt’s wife, Julie Golsteyn, had said at the time that the president’s tweet had given their family hope.
“I don’t know how much more ridiculous it can get,” she added. “Matt was cleared and then their story changed. It is so rigged.”