Trump dismissed a second degree murder conviction against Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, who is six years into a 19-year term for ordering soldiers in 2012 to fire on three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle, two of whom died.
Perhaps sensing the bad optics of the decision, however, current and former military officials have questioned whether the pardons would send a "bad message" to both USA soldiers and the rest of the world.
The murder case against Gallagher fell apart after another SEAL who was offered immunity to testify against him said in court that it was actually him, and not Gallagher, who killed the detainee.
BOWMAN: Well, the president praised all three - again, Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance, Army Major Matt Golsteyn and Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher.
In 2010, he was investigated over shooting a little Afghan girl, but no charges were filed against him.
In its statement on Friday, the White House said it was giving a "swift resolution" to Golsteyn's case exclusively "in the interests of justice", and hailed the broader move as giving "second chances" to "deserving individuals". Thanks to the president, that there would be no such scenario for Gallagher. As the President has stated, "when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight".
Officials all pointed to a central concept that informs the United States military ethos: that United States forces are highly trained to operate in a legal and disciplined manner and if they are found guilty of violations, they must face punishment. "These steps are in preserving with this very long record".
"The President is a part of the military justice system since the Commander-in-Chief and can weigh in on issues of this type", the spokesperson said.
"Trump has sent a clear message of disrespect for law, morality, the military justice system, and those in the military who abide by the laws of war", Shamsi said in a statement.
"It was an incredible honor", Golsteyn added, praising Trump's "incredible display of courage".
Trump has tweeted in the past that Golsteyn is a "US Military hero" who could face the death penalty "from our own government". "The terrorist bombmaker, as identified by an Afghan informant, who had killed our troops, was detained and questioned". "You know, we instruct them how to be excellent fighters, and then when they battle, occasionally they get definitely handled incredibly unfairly".
An official explained that "the President might think they acted in patriotism, but these were war crimes".
The service members involved were notified by Trump over the phone, said the USA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.