The pardon of former soldier Michael Behenna this week could spur a series of similar actions, according to advocates who say President Trump is reviewing other cases and could soon issue more pardons to members of the military convicted of murder and other major crimes.
Mr. Trump issued a full pardon to Mr. Behenna, formerly an Army 1st lieutenant, on Monday evening, erasing a conviction on charges of “unpremeditated murder in a combat zone” stemming from his role in the 2007 shooting death of an Iraqi man.
Critics accused the president of essentially condoning murder and war crimes, but the pardon has provided a boost to families, lawmakers and supporters of service members in prison.
“We’ve had additional information requested from us. We’ve provided additional information on cases we’re covering” to the White House, said David Gurfein, chairman and CEO of United American Patriots, an advocacy group that provides legal support to military members accused of crimes.
“The president said, ‘How many of these situations do we have?’ And he was asking for greater perspective on the situation,” Mr. Gurfein said.
There is no doubt Mr. Trump is reviewing other cases. The president has said he will review the case of Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, who faces murder charges in connection with the 2010 death of a man who Maj. Golsteyn believed was a Taliban bombmaker.
SEE ALSO: Michael Behenna pardoned by Donald Trump
“At the request of many, I will be reviewing the case of a ‘U.S. Military hero,’ Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder,” the president tweeted in December. “He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a terrorist bomb maker while overseas.”
Advocates and lawmakers also are pushing for a pardon of Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who was convicted of murder in connection with the 2012 deaths of two Afghan men. Lorance was sentenced to 19 years in prison for his role in the incident.
Lawmakers have been pressing Mr. Trump to pardon Lorance since the start of the president’s time in office.
“This is one of those cases that stands out as a stupid decision where someone who should not be in jail is going to jail,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and a Marine veteran of Iraq, said in a February 2017 letter to the president. “And not just that, a platoon commander who was on the ground and in his mind made a life-and-death decision in real time. Again, this is combat.”
It’s unclear whether Mr. Trump is considering a full pardon for Lorance.
The Behenna, Goldsteyn and Lorance cases are just three examples of what United American Patriots and other groups cast as a disturbing pattern of military members acting to defend themselves and their colleagues on the battlefield only to later face severe legal repercussions.
The case of Mr. Behenna, in particular, has cast a spotlight on the controversy often involved with such cases. Mr. Behenna and his platoon took Ali Mansur, whom they suspected of direct links to al Qaeda, to the Iraqi desert for interrogation.
Mr. Behenna said Mansur threw a piece of concrete at him and then reached for his gun. Mr. Behenna shot Mansur twice, killing him, and later argued that he acted in self-defense.
Mr. Behenna was released on parole in 2014.
The move drew praise from advocacy groups, lawmakers and others who said Mr. Behenna was wrongly punished. But critics say Mr. Trump made a grave mistake.
“This pardon is a presidential endorsement of a murder that violated the military’s own code of justice,” the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted. “Military leaders, including Trump as commander-in-chief, should prevent war crimes — not endorse or excuse them.”
Mr. Trump also has intervened in other cases.
In March, the president pushed to have Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher moved to a “less restrictive confinement” as he awaits trial. Mr. Gallagher faces court-martial proceedings for allegedly stabbing to death a captured Islamic State extremist.
“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,” Mr. Trump said.