These Are the Armed Services Members Linked to War Crimes Cases Who President Trump Pardoned

President Donald Trump has extended clemency Friday for two members of the U.S. military accused of war crimes as reported by The New York Times: one, a former Green Beret accused of killing a suspected Afghan bomb maker, and the other a former Army officer serving 19 years for ordering soldiers to fire on unarmed Afghan men. The same day, the president also reinstated the title of a Navy SEAL charged with posing for a picture with the body of a deceased prisoner in Iraq. Trump reportedly made the moves despite military leaders who did not want the men to be cleared.

On Friday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement in support of Trump's decision to pardon Army Major Mathew Golsteyn and Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance.

"The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted," Grisham said. "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." She continued: "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.'"

Last year, Golsteyn pleaded "not guilty" to a murder charge in connection with the death of a man in Afghanistan in 2010, when he led Operation Moshtarak. According to The New York Times, he had admitted to the killing in a job interview with the C.I.A., the following year. In October, Trump defended the former Green Beret on Twitter, writing: "We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!"

"Our family is profoundly grateful for the president's action," Golsteyn said Friday in a statement. "We have lived in constant fear of this runaway prosecution. Thanks to President Trump, we now have a chance to rebuild our family and lives. With time, I hope to regain my immense pride in having served in our military. In the meantime, we are so thankful for the support of family members, friends and supporters from around the nation, and our legal team."

In 2013, Lorance was found guilty of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison (serving six of them) for ordering his soldiers to fire on three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle—two of whom died.

"The tragedy of pardoning Lorance isn't that he will be released from prison—I've found room for compassion there," said former Army captain Patrick Swanson said of the 34-year-old Oklahoma native, who was released from a U.S. penitentiary in Leavenworth. "The tragedy is that people will hail him as a hero, and he is not a hero. He ordered those murders. He lied about them," he continued, as reported by the Times.

In July, Gallagher, who was accused of murdering a 12-year-old ISIS prisoner in Iraq, was acquitted of the charge. Instead, a jury found the 15-year SEAL guilty of posing for a picture with the prisoner's corpse. He was subsequently demoted from chief petty officer to first-class petty officer, before Trump's intervention in the case on Friday.

"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," Gallagher said in a statement to the public Friday night. "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."

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President Trump spotted walking toward Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on November 14, 2019. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
These Are the Armed Services Members Linked to War Crimes Cases Who President Trump Pardoned | U.S.