Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is not happy about the possibility that President Donald Trump may pardon a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes.
“I think it’s a terrible idea to pardon someone who is legitimately convicted of committing war crimes,” Romney told the HuffPost on Tuesday. “It’s unthinkable.”
The New York times reported that, over the weekend, the White House requested the necessary paperwork to pardon Navy SEAL Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of firing on civilians in 2017 and fatally stabbing an already wounded ISIS fighter. He was turned in by his fellow SEALs.
Despite the recent firestorm over the idea of pardoning Gallagher before the trial is over, his case has found some defense in conservative media.
“He could be guilty of the crimes of which he has been accused,” writes Marine combat veteran and conservative commentator Jesse Kelly in a piece pointing out that most people have no idea the kind of strain special operations warfare puts on human beings. “He could be completely innocent. I was not there. You were not there. We do not know. Given the absence of any physical evidence, and the fact that the ‘witnesses’ are now clamming up and now refuse to talk, the charges against him appear flaky at best.”
Kelly also added that the current debate about Gallagher’s case has more to do with politics than with justice: “Make no mistake about it, the newfound interest you see in painting Eddie Gallagher as some sort of bloodthirsty war criminal has precious little to do with what Gallagher did or didn’t do. This is now about Trump.”
More recently, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a former Navy SEAL who lost one of his eyes in combat, said that Gallagher should face trial before being considered for a pardon: “These cases should be decided by the courts, where the entirety of the evidence can be viewed. Only after that should a pardon be considered.”
Gallagher’s trial is scheduled to begin next week, but the NYT story reported that a military official said that “all files would have to be complete before Memorial Day weekend, because the President planned to pardon the men then.”