Trump Accused of Using 'War Criminals' He Pardoned as 'Political Props' at Florida Fundraiser

President Donald Trump has come under fire after appearing alongside a convicted war criminal at a closed-door fundraising event in Florida this weekend.

The president spoke at the Republican Party of Florida's annual Statesman's Dinner on Saturday night, the Miami Herald reported. During his speech, Trump invited First Lieutenant Clint Lorance and Major Matthew Golsteyn—both recipients of presidential pardons related to war crimes in Afghanistan—to join him on the stage.

Trump made headlines last month by pardoning three U.S. soldiers convicted or accused of war crimes, including Lorance and Golsteyn. He did so despite protests from the Pentagon and concerns from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Lorance was serving a 19-year prison sentence before Trump pardoned him, having ordered his soldiers to shoot unarmed men in Afghanistan. Golsteyn was due to stand trial for the alleged 2010 extrajudicial killing of a suspected Taliban bomb-maker.

Many Twitter users expressed their disbelief and frustration that the president would appear alongside such figures, suggesting their involvement cast a shadow on Trump's campaigning.

Bishop Garrison, an Iraq veteran who now works at the Human Rights First advocacy group and leads Veterans for American Ideals, said, "War criminals are now officially political props for the president. It took no time at all."

Mark Elliott, who founded the Mobility non-profit, added, "First Trump pardoned convicted war criminals. Now he's bringing them on stage at campaign events."

Christian author Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons wrote that he was "at a loss for words" at Trump "actively campaigning with the war criminals he pardoned."

And Shashank Joshi, the defense editor at The Economist, said the appearance represented "a very special sort of civil-military crisis."

The Statesman's Dinner event was not open to journalists, and the 1,000 attendees were made to leave their cell phones in locked cases before being allowed to enter the ballroom where Trump was speaking. The event raised some $3.5 million for state Republicans, the Herald reported.

The president's speech reportedly included comedic impressions of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and touched on the impeachment battle raging back in Washington. Trump said the probe was "a sham" and a "witch hunt," and claimed the Democratic Party had "been after me" ever since he announced his presidential run in 2015.

Straight after the event, Trump headed to Hollywood to speak in front of the Israeli-American Council. The president was criticized by left-leaning Jewish organizations after his appearance for using anti-Semitic tropes.

"You're brutal killers, not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me. You have no choice," Trump said at one stage. He also suggested that a lot of those attending "are in the real estate business" and that none of the audience members would be in favor of a wealth tax.

The J Street advocacy group wrote on Twitter, "The President of the United States is incapable of addressing Jewish audiences without dipping into the deep well of anti-Semitic tropes that shape his worldview."

Donald Trump, war criminal, pardon, Florida, fundraising
President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on December 7, 2019. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images/Getty