FRENCH PRESS AGENCY – AFP
President Donald Trump confirmed Friday he is considering pardons for several military servicemen accused or convicted of war crimes, in what critics say would be an abuse of the powers afforded him under the U.S. Constitution.
The New York Times reported this week, quoting administration officials, that Trump envisaged making the controversial pardons during the Memorial Day weekend in which Americans honor those who died while in the armed forces.
Reportedly among those being considered is former Marine Edward Gallagher, who is due to stand trial starting next week accused of shooting unarmed civilians and stabbing a teenage captive to death.
Trump is also said to be eyeing a pardon for Matt Golsteyn, an ex-member of the elite U.S. Army Green Berets, charged with premeditated murder in the shooting death of an alleged Taliban bomb-maker in 2010.
Three Marines, arrested after video footage showed them urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters in 2011, are also reportedly under consideration for a pardon, as well as a former Blackwater employee convicted of killing a teenaged Iraqi civilian.
“We’re looking at a lot of different pardons for a lot of different people,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn Friday, when asking why he was considering pardoning war criminals.
“Some of these soldiers are people that have fought hard, long, you know. We teach them how to be great fighters and when they fight sometimes they get really treated very unfairly. So we’re going to take a look at it,” Trump added.
Trump confirmed he was looking at two or three cases that were “a little bit controversial,” adding that he may let trials of these people proceed and then decide afterward.
“I haven’t done anything yet. I haven’t made any decisions,” he said.
Retired Navy admiral James Stavridis was among those who came out strongly against Trump’s reported plans.
“I commanded several of the servicemen Trump may pardon,” the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander wrote Wednesday in Time magazine. “Letting them off will undermine the military.”
This type of pardon, he argued, “strengthens enemy propaganda, as they will correctly say that we do not hold ourselves accountable for our own standards” and “spurs our enemies on to even more barbaric behavior.”