President Donald Trump has defended his pardons of three service members accused of war crimes, saying that he would not have exercised executive pardons for Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl or leaker Chelsea Manning.
'Our great warfighters must be allowed to fight. I would not have done this for Sgt. Bergdahl or Chelsea Manning!' Trump said in a tweet on Sunday, two days after issuing three pardons of service members.
Bergdahl was demoted to private and dishonorably discharged in a 2017 court-martial for desertion of duty in Afghanistan, after unsuccessfully lobbying former President Barack Obama for a pardon.
In his final days in office, Obama used executive clemency to commute the prison sentence of Manning, an Army soldier who was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 35 years in prison for sharing classified military documents with WikiLeaks.
President Donald Trump defended his pardons of three service members on Friday
Trump said that he would not have exercised executive pardons for Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl (left) or leaker Chelsea Manning (right)
Trump's remarks on Twitter were in response to a tweet from Fox News host Pete Hegeseth, who reportedly privately lobbied the president for pardons in three high-profile war crimes cases.
On Friday, Trump issued the pardons for Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, and Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Edward Gallagher.
On Friday night, Lorance, 34, embraced his beaming family members as he walked out of Leavenworth military prison in Kansas in full dress uniform , hours after his pardon.
Lorance was convicted of second-degree murder for ordering soldiers under his command to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men on motorcycles, including two who died, in 2012. He and his supporters maintain that they were enemy combatants.
He had served more than six years of a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth.
Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, 34, embraced his beaming family members as he walked out of Leavenworth military prison in Kansas in full dress uniform on Friday night
Video shows the moment that Lorance stepped out of an SUV that transported him from the notorious maximum-security military prison, as his family members screamed with joy
Lorrance embraces his sister as he walked free after six years behind bars at Leavenworth
Video shows the moment that Lorance stepped out of an SUV that transported him from the notorious maximum-security military prison, as his family members screamed with joy, hugged him and wiped away tears.
As his sister, nieces and other family struggled to compose themselves, Lorance asked: 'I hear y'all have some pizza around here somewhere?'
'We do have pizza!' a female family members replied, as they all burst into laughter.
Lorance then entered the hotel where a reception had been set up to greet him, and delivered brief remarks, saying that he had spoken on the phone with Trump just prior to his release.
'He sounds just like he sounds on TV, on the phone. He's actually pretty funny too when you talk to him on the phone,' Lorance said.
Lorance was greeted by retired Lt. Col. David 'Bull' Gurfein, the CEO of United American Patriots, a group that lobbied for his pardon and release
'I just wanted to join the Army, and go be a soldier. I didn't realize all this was gonna happen, it's kind of overwhelming for a country boy from the middle of nowhere,' Lorance said
Lorance thanked all of his supporters, who had corresponded with him behind bars and petitioned for his release.
'I just wanted to join the Army, and go be a soldier. I didn't realize all this was gonna happen, it's kind of overwhelming for a country boy from the middle of nowhere,' he said.
On Saturday morning, Lorance changed his Facebook cover photo to a banner supporting Trump's 2020 reelection campaign.
Lorance, an 82nd Airborne Division lieutenant, was sentenced to 19 years in prison, forfeiture of all pay and dismissal from the army after prosecutors said he recklessly ordered his men to open fire on the Afghan men in July 2012.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
The trio on motorcycles had approached his patrol in southern Afghanistan.
Prosecutors said this was in violation of the military's rules of engagement,