According to the Times, the Trump Administration has made “expedited requests” this week for paperwork to pardon these individuals on or around Memorial Day.
The pardons include individuals involved in high-profile cases of murder, such as Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who is will be standing trial for charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife. Trump praised Gallagher via Twitter in March stating, “In honor of his past service to our Country, Navy Seal #EddieGallagher will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court. Process should move quickly!”
Other potential pardons include former Blackwater security guard Nicholas A. Slatten, who was found guilty of killing 14 unarmed Iraqis in 2007; Army Green Beret Mathew L. Golsteyn, accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; and four Marine Corps snipers charged with urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters.
The two United States officials who spoke about the potential pardons did so anonymously, as they were not authorized to speak publicly. They also said that they have not seen the complete list of potential pardons and there may be other service members included.
Normally assembling pardon files takes months but the Justice Department has stated that this time files will need to be complete before Memorial Day weekend, when the President plans to pardon the men. Pardon files usually require background information and details on criminal charges and may include letters describing the way the person has made amends.
Lawmakers, human rights advocates, and journalists responded with fury to the breaking news. “These are all extremely complicated cases that have gone through a careful system of consideration,” Gary Solis, a retired military judge, told the Times. “A freewheeling pardon undermines that whole system.”
Former U.S. Army prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, whose former employer prosecuted for the Blackwater case, said on Twitter, “It was important that the perpetrators of those horrific offenses were brought to justice. Now Trump, in a twisted, grotesque ‘celebration’ of Memorial Day, wants to pardon these and other murderers?! What message is he really trying to send to the military?”
“Trump is getting ready to pardon some of America’s most horrifying recent war criminals. A huge injustice to those whose lives they destroyed and a message that America will tolerate war crimes,” said Murtaza Mohammad Hussain, a reporter at The Intercept.
This is not the first time the Trump Administration has pardoned war criminals. Earlier this month Trump pardoned former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, who was convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner in 2008.