Military asks Trump to refrain from pardoning soldiers
Publish date: 08 November 2019
Issue Number: 4821
Diary: Legalbrief Today
Defence Secretary Mark T Esper appealed to President Donald Trump this week to allow the military justice system to proceed unfettered in a number of high-profile cases, officials said, as concern intensifies among Pentagon leaders that presidential intervention could damage military discipline and morale. According to a report in The Washington Post, Esper said he had a ‘robust discussion’ with Trump about the cases of three current or former service members charged with war crimes or other wrongdoing. Fox News this week reported that the President was likely to issue pardons or take other actions to assist them. Officials said the meeting with Trump came a day after Esper convened military service leaders to discuss the cases, which include that of a Navy SEAL acquitted of killing an Islamic State prisoner but convicted on lesser charges. A defence official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Pentagon leaders were ‘acutely’ concerned that action by Trump circumventing the military justice system would have ‘second and third order effects on good order and discipline’. The issue constitutes a potential point of friction between Trump and the Pentagon at a time when defence leaders are scrambling to publicly align themselves with the President’s evolving policy on Syria, which some military officials have privately criticised, and shore up alliances frayed by the administration’s erratic decision-making.