President Donald Trump may pardon multiple former U.S. service members accused or convicted of war crimes during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend celebrations, according to anonymous officials who spoke with the New York Times this weekend.
Among the individuals being considered for the pardons is Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who faces trial in coming weeks on charges he stabbed an injured teenage military to death in 2017 in Iraq. The case has grabbed headlines in recent days after a Navy prosecutor sent an email with a secret digital tracking device to a Navy Times editor, raising separate legal questions.
The New York Times reported that other individuals being vetted for some form of clemency include Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010, and a group of Marine Corps snipers charged with urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan in 2011.
Department of Justice officials have not commented on the reports.
The issue of former troops facing legal consequences for actions during combat has been hotly debated on Capitol Hill and within the veterans community in recent years. Gallagher has seen significant support from several conservative House members who call his prosecution an unjust second-guessing of the confusion and chaos of the battlefield.
But others see it as a case of forgiving wartime atrocities in an effort to appear more supportive of the military as a whole. Following the reports, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, a former Naval reservist who served in Afghanistan, blasted the possible move as out of step with military values.
“The flag I wore on my shoulder represented a country that was known for keeping its word,” he wrote on social media. “But with the president considering pardoning war criminals even after they have been tried by a jury of their peers, that is undermining American moral authority and putting troops at risk.”
Earlier this month, the White House announced a pardon for former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, convicted of the 2008 unpremeditated murder after killing a suspected al-Qaida terrorist in Iraq. He was paroled in 2014 for the crime.
White House officials said that decision came after “broad support from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public” for forgiveness for the crimes. It also drew similar criticism from Trump’s critics.