President Donald Trump took to the phone in the Oval Office and notified three U.S. service members accused of war crimes that he was intervening on their behalf and issuing full pardons in two of the cases as Vice President Pence and others listened on speakerphone, reports the Washington Post. Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who faced a murder trial in the 2010 death of a suspected Taliban bombmaker, said Trump talked to him for nearly 15 minutes, asking about his future plans and the Pentagon’s application of military justice. “He asked, ‘Did you feel like you were going to get a fair shake or that it was slanted or biased against you?’ ” Golsteyn said “I told him, ‘Sir, it was quite clear that the outcome was fixed.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, that was my thoughts, as well.’ ”
Trump’s intervention in the cases prompted a backlash from some veterans and legal experts, who said it will undermine the military justice system and weaken U.S. credibility abroad. On Thursday, Trump said he will not allow one of the service members to be ejected from the Navy SEALs. “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” the president tweeted. “This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!” How Trump came to believe that the Pentagon could not handle the cases fairly reflects his tendency to accept the advice of people outside his administration. The president mostly left defense officials out of his discussions until a few weeks ago and told his advisers that his supporters would back the move. Trump discussed the issue with other people in his orbit, including Pete Hegseth, a Fox News personality who highlighted the cases on his show and described the service members as heroes facing malicious prosecution.