Last week, President Trump granted full pardons for Army First Lt. Clint Lorance and Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who’d been accused of war crimes. Lorance had served six years of a 19-year sentence, and Golsteyn was facing trial for killing an alleged Taliban bombmaker. Navy SEAL Edward R. Gallagher, who was found not guilty of war crimes, but still had his rank reduced, was granted clemency and restoration of rank.
Lawmakers had been pushing for pardons for Lorance and Golsteyn because they’d taken actions to defend themselves on the battlefield and were charged with war crimes for it. Yet, when President Trump pardoned them, it immediately sparked controversy and outrage. Pete Buttigieg joined in the outrage chorus, claiming Trump “dishonored our armed services.”
American soldiers join the military knowing they can be sent away from their families for long periods of time into unsafe conditions with the possibility they might never come back—or come back severely injured. For Trump to give various members of our military a second chance is infinitely less outrageous than acts of clemency made by his predecessor.
Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Bradley Manning (you may also know him as Chelsea), who leaked hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents to WikiLeaks. A traitor in every sense, in 2013 Manning was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison. But, Bradley Manning became a hero of the political left for declaring himself to be transgender, and Obama made his controversial commutation days before leaving office.
Obama also commuted the sentence of convicted terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera. Lopez Rivera was a leader of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña (FALN), a Puerto Rican terrorist group responsible for 130 attacks in the United States, and at least six deaths. An unrepentant Lopez-Rivera was serving a 70-year sentence when Obama set him free.
Obama also granted clemency to hundreds of drug offenders he claimed were non-violent offenders who deserved a second chance, because of racism or something. It later came out that many of the people he released were actually violent offenders guilty of gun crimes. Obama granted more acts of clemency than any president since Truman, though he saved much of that executive use of power for the latter months and days of his presidency.
While Obama may have granted clemency to plenty who deserved it, granting clemency to an unrepentant terrorist was nonsensical. Doing the same for a traitor responsible for the biggest national security breach in history sends the worst possible message. I think it’s clear that Trump has shown far better judgment so far than his predecessor.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis