Fox News host Pete Hegseth calls for accused war criminals to be pardoned after ‘privately lobbying Trump’

Fox News host tweets link to news report claiming he's lobbied the president for months to release accused war criminals

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 21 May 2019 17:40
Trump turns on Fox News during Pennsylvania rally

A Fox News host privately lobbied Donald Trump to give presidential pardons to accused war criminals, according to a new report.

Pete Hegseth, a former military officer, tweeted a link to a Daily Beast news report on Tuesday that said he had “pressed the president to support the accused and convicted servicemen” as part of a months-long lobbying campaign.

Without confirming or denying the context of the news report, Mr Hegseth added three hashtags — #FreeEddie, #FreeMatt and #FreeClint — likely referring to Navy SEAL platoon leader Edward Gallagher, Major Mathew Golsteyn and Army 1st Lieutenant Clint Lorance.

News of the pair’s multiple conversations dating back to March about pardoning accused war criminals arrived after it was reported over the weekend that the president was preparing the paperwork for a slate of related pardons.

Mr Trump publicly called for a lessening of the “restrictive confinement” Mr Gallagher was receiving on Twitter in late March, writing, “In honour of his past service to our Country, Navy Seal #EddieGallagher will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court.” The president then tagged Fox News’ morning show, Fox and Friends.

A source with direct knowledge of the comment also reportedly told the Daily Beast that Mr Trump called Mr Gallagher’s supposed treatment “total bulls***” within more recent weeks.

The White House has requested information from the Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney on a number of cases involving military personnel and a Blackwater defence contractor, the New York Times reported.

The president plans to pardon some or all of the accused war criminals in question before or on Memorial Day, reports indicate.

If it happens, the slate of pardons would occur just weeks after Mr Trump pardoned Lieutenant Michael Behenna, who previously served five years of a murder sentence over the shooting death of an Iraqi bombing suspect.

Mr Gallagher has been accused of shooting civilians and beheading a suspected terrorist, while Matthew Golsteyn has been accused of killing an Afghan who was armed at the time.

Among the group of pardons Mr Trump is reportedly considering includes several Marine Scout Snipers seen in a video urinating over Taliban soldiers who had been killed, as well as a defence contractor convicted of shooting unarmed Iraqis in 2007.

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Mr Trump has displayed an affinity for Fox News throughout his presidency, considering — and often appointing — former Fox News contributors, hosts and executives for top-level government positions. He’s responds in real-time to reports and demands coming from the conservative news outlet, tweeting public declarations and even calling in to various programmes.

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