Fox News reported this week that President Trump plans to take “imminent action” regarding war crimes charges against three former members of the U.S. military. We urge the president to throw out the charges against all three.
The three brave Americans who stepped forward to defend our country are: former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, former Army Green Beret Maj. Matt Golsteyn, and former Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Eddie Gallagher.
Fox News’ Pete Hegseth, who spoke with President Trump about the cases over the weekend, said the president is keen to act before Veterans Day, which is Monday.
Every commonsense, patriotic American would undoubtedly celebrate the dismissal of all the charges against Lorance, Golsteyn and Gallagher.
So it should not come as a surprise that Washington establishment-types are already attempting to derail action by the president that would clear the three men.
Unfortunately, rather than working diligently to implement the commander in chief’s decision, some news reports said Defense Secretary Mark Esper has urged the president not to intervene in the cases, claiming he has “full confidence in the military justice system.”
According to these reports, Pentagon leaders believe presidential intervention would be “damaging to the integrity of the military judicial system.”
What these Washington elites fail to acknowledge is that the military justice system has neglected our nation’s warriors time and time again. President Trump’s instincts to act on their behalf are further proof of his tireless commitment to our rank-and-file men and women in uniform.
We and other members of the Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus stand wholeheartedly in favor of dismissing the charges against the three former service members. We’ve reviewed their cases, met with the accused and have seen the evidence. Or, more accurately, the lack of evidence.
These three men are American heroes who have been accused of crimes during combat far from our shores, when they were risking their lives on behalf of the rest of us here at home. When the circumstances are viewed holistically, they did what our country asked of them.
The three deserve our gratitude and thanks. Instead, they find themselves at the mercy of a broken military justice system for simply doing their jobs.
We created the Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus not just to help warfighters like Clint, Eddie and Matt, but also to make the structural reforms needed to ensure miscarriages of justice like those suffered by these men never happen again.
The blind confidence in the military justice system by some at the Pentagon is grossly misplaced. We have seen firsthand the politicized nature of the military judicial process and have discovered more instances of prosecutorial misconduct than we can mention.
Moreover, our broken Uniform Code of Military Justice denies our service members basic rights and weights the scales of justice against the accused.
Take these examples:
In the Lorance case, the prosecution claimed Afghans killed during a combat patrol in their country were simply civilians. However, prosecutors failed to disclose or produce fingerprint and DNA evidence proving that at least two of the three “victims” were Taliban bombmakers with ties to improvised explosive devices that detonated at locations where U.S. troops were killed.
In the Gallagher case, prosecutors purposely installed spyware on the defense team’s computers. If that wasn’t enough, the prosecution’s own witness admitted to the crime Gallagher was accused of committing. Rather than dismiss the charges, the prosecutors stuck with their theory and unnecessarily prolonged the trial.
In the Golsteyn case, Army prosecutors pursued charges years after an investigation cleared Golsteyn of wrongdoing. When their case began to fall apart, they changed their theory weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin by enlisting possible members of the Taliban in Afghanistan as their key witnesses. Let us repeat that: the U.S. Army is working to have Taliban terrorists testify against an American soldier.
One cannot be aware of these grave injustices and still believe that the military judicial process is a flawless institution that administers justice fairly in every case. These cases illustrate why we joined with our colleagues in forming the Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus.
In addition to commending President Trump for reportedly planning to take action in the cases of Lorance, Gallagher and Golsteyn, we respectfully request that the president come to the aid of other American heroes: Army Sgt. Derrick Miller and 1st Sgt. John Hatley. This appeal is sure to rattle the top echelon at the Pentagon.
In the case of Sgt. Miller, he was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing a Taliban operative who had grabbed Miller’s gun during an interrogation.
Prosecutors threatened Miller’s witness with potential life in prison as an accessory to get him to implicate Miller.
Miller’s other witness was an Afghan interpreter who was promised U.S. citizenship in exchange for changing his testimony to incriminate Miller. It is worth noting that Miller is out on parole now, but still carries the stigma of a murder conviction and deserves to have his name cleared.
Hatley was a respected and highly decorated soldier who was convicted of the premeditated murder of four Iraqi detainees. Despite a thorough investigation by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), no physical or forensic evidence was uncovered to support the allegations against him.
There were no bodies, no casings, and no one reported missing. All it took was one accusation in the wake of the Abu-Ghraib prison scandal from a soldier he had recently disciplined.
Hatley was ultimately convicted based on the testimony of soldiers who changed their stories after prosecutors threatened them with potential life sentences as co-conspirators.
Over the coming months, we will continue working as a caucus to make needed reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and stand with our service members who are wrongly accused.
In the meantime, President Trump has the opportunity to take action immediately. We hope and pray he does the right thing and follows through on utilizing his executive authority on behalf of our heroes. We hope Americans across the country let their voices be heard on behalf of our brave and patriotic warriors as well.
Rep. Louie Gohmert is a Republican representing Texas in the U.S. House. He is an attorney who served in the Army as a captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps and later served as a Court of Appeals justice in Texas.