Trump ‘wants war criminals’ to campaign for him in 2020 election

Men who ordered soldiers to fire on unarmed civilians, posed for photos with dead bodies and are accused of stabbing wounded teenagers among those president said to be keen to enlist

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 26 November 2019 11:35 GMT
Donald Trump reportedly talked about bringing men on stage and 'making it a big deal at the convention'
Donald Trump reportedly talked about bringing men on stage and 'making it a big deal at the convention' (Tom Brenner/REUTERS)

Donald Trump has reportedly told aides he wants three convicted or accused war criminals to campaign for him during his bid for reelection in 2020.

The US president granted clemency to Clint Lorance and Matthew Golsteyn, and reversed the decision to demote Edward Gallagher on 15 November.

Mr Trump has since spoken about how he would like to have the three men appear at his 2020 rallies, The Daily Beast reported, citing two sources.

They said he also talked about bringing them on stage at his renomination convention in Charlotte in 2020.

“He briefly discussed making it a big deal at the convention,” one of the sources told the outlet.

“The president made a reference to the 2016 [convention] and where they brought on-stage heroes” such as former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of a team sent to kill or capture a Taliban leader in Afghanistan.

Mr Trump’s intervention in the three men’s cases has been celebrated by the president’s right-wing supporters and conservative media.

“I will always protect our great warfighters,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “I’ve got your backs!”

Mr Lorance was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder in 2013 for ordering his soldiers to fire on three unarmed Afghan men riding a motorbike, killing two.

The former army lieutenant was sentenced to 19 years in prison, but was released from military prison after Mr Trump pardoned him.

Mr Golsteyn, a former special forces major, pleaded not guilty earlier this year to the murder of an unarmed Afghan man believed to be a Taliban bomb maker.

He was stripped of his Special Forces tab and was scheduled to go on trial for the killing and for allegedly burning the man’s corpse, but was pardoned by Mr Trump.

Mr Gallagher, a NAVY Seal was accused of murdering a teenage Isis fighter in Iraq in 2017, which he denied. However, two of his fellow SEALs testified to seeing him stab the wounded militant in the neck.

He was acquitted of the murder, but found guilty of posing for a photo with the corpse. He was demoted in rank, which Mr Trump reversed.

The case led to a dispute between Mr Trump and armed services leaders over military discipline and culminated in the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.

Mark Esper, Mr Trump’s defence secretary, claimed Mr Spencer tried to propose a secret deal with the White House in which he would fix the outcome of Mr Gallagher’s review.

However, several sources told The Daily Beast they did not think Mr Esper’s account was true.

US veterans have told The Independent the decision “sets a dangerous precedent” and suggests Mr Trump views the military “as a tool for massacres”.

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