As It Happens

Trump's military murder pardon a slap in the face to honourable soldiers: ex-army medic

By pardoning an American lieutenant found guilty of murder, U.S. President Donald Trump has done a disservice to the other soldiers in his platoon who stood up for what's right, says a former army medic.

Lt. Clint Lorance was convicted of ordering his platoon to fire on unarmed Afghans in 2012

Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance salutes while appearing on Fox & Friends. U.S. President Donald Trump issued a full pardon Friday for Lorance, who had been convicted of murder. (Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press)

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By pardoning an American lieutenant found guilty of murder, U.S. President Donald Trump has done a disservice to the other soldiers in his platoon who stood up for what's right, says a former army medic.

Trump issued pardons for two military members on Friday, including Lt. Clint Lorance, who had been convicted of murder for ordering his soldiers to fire on three unarmed Afghan men in July 2012, killing two. Lorance has served more than six years of a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Ka.

The lieutenant, who had become a cause célèbre for Republicans, is now free, and received a hero's welcome Monday on Fox & Friends.

"He's being heroicized, publicly heroicized, and whenever you heroicize a war criminal, you inevitably vilify the soldiers who stood up and did the right thing and told on him," Adam Linehan told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"These soldiers, these members of the platoon, they have been dragged through the mud by the right-wing media, because otherwise the story doesn't work."

Linehan is a former sergeant who served in the same Afghanistan battlefield as Lorance, but not at the same time. In 2017, he wrote an article for Task & Purpose titled "Why I Think Lt Clint Lorance Is A Murderer."

Conflicting stories 

The way Lorance and his supporters tell it, three men on a motorcycle were bearing down on his platoon one day in July 2012, and he made the split-second decision to have his men fire at them in self-defence.

But the nine platoon members who testified against him told a very different story. Several of them spoke to the New York Times in 2015. They said the men on the bike were 200 yards away, posed no threat, and could not have possibly reached their position.

The soldiers say they searched the men's bodies afterward, and found no weapons or evidence of wrongdoing. But Lorance reported over the radio that villagers took their bodies away before they could be searched.

Later that day, his men reported the falsification. 

On Jan. 5, 2015, Lorance was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder. His lawyers appealed for a new trial, claiming to have found evidence that linked the two men to terrorist networks.

The appeal was denied on the grounds that such evidence would have been inadmissible because Lorance could not have possibly known about it when he made the decision to open fire.

Trump says some soldiers get 'really treated very unfairly' when they fight. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

On Friday, Trump pardoned Lorance along with Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, a former Green Beret accused of killing a suspected bomb-maker during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan.

"For more than 200 years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. "These actions are in keeping with this long history."

Trump also ordered a promotion for Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Edward Gallagher, the Navy SEAL convicted of posing with a dead Islamic State captive in Iraq in 2017. Gallagher was in line for a promotion before he was prosecuted, but he lost that and was reduced in rank after the conviction.

"Some of these soldiers are people that have fought hard and long," Trump said in May. "You know, we teach them how to be great fighters, and then when they fight sometimes they get really treated very unfairly."

Fox & Friends 

Lorance granted his first post-imprisonment interview to Fox on Monday, where he praised the president.

"President Trump is somebody who sees something that's wrong and fixes it, and doesn't care whose feeling it hurts," he said. "The military justice system is absolutely broken."

The interview closed with co-host Ainsley Earhardt thanking Lorance for his service.

Fox News's Brian Hegseth, left, shakes hands with Lorance during his appearance on Fox & Friends. (Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press)

Linehan says there are a number of reasons people might rally behind Lorance. 

"I think that what Lorance represents to his supporters is an unrestrained approach to these conflicts. He represents a winner, a guy who is going to do whatever it takes to get the job done, who doesn't care about civilian casualties, who doesn't care about the collateral damage," he said.

"[To] the people who espouse this idea, all that matters is, you know, our success in these wars and whatever we have to do to win, we win."

Ironically, he said actions like Lorance's actually hamper the war effort.

"What Lorance did ruined the progress that had been built up over many years in that region," he said. "The whole point was to bridge the divide between the American forces and the local population, and he drove a wedge straight through that."

He acknowledged that for some people, the choice to support Lorance might be a bit more complicated. 

"I also think that it's really hard for people to stomach the idea that their military is overseas doing this sort of stuff," he said.

"I think that there's a lot of guilt around these wars, and so they refuse to acknowledge or accept the possibility that Americans can be war criminals."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Adam Linehan produced by Jeanne Armstrong.