Pentagon war crimes Trump, Esper to urge Trump not to intervene in cases.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper will urge President Donald Trump not to dismiss or change the sentences of service members facing war crimes allegations, CNN has learned.
Trump ordered a review of charges against Army Lt. Clint Lorance and Army Green Beret Maj. Matt Golsteyn, and is reportedly considering restoring the rank of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, according to a Monday report on “Fox & Friends,” the President’s favorite morning show. With Veterans Day approaching, Fox News reported that Trump could make an announcement about the three men within a week.
That report from Fox surprised top Pentagon officials and galvanized them to take swift action to head off the President, administration officials said.
The Defense Department will send an information package to the White House as soon as it can get the material together, according to three defense officials.
Esper and senior military officials want to get to Trump before he makes a decision and ensure he understands the gravity of what these soldiers have been found guilty of or, in the case of Goldsteyn, the pending charges.
Administration officials say Esper will recommend to the President that he let the Uniform Code of Military Justice prevail.
On Wednesday, Esper said he’d spoken to Trump about the service members facing war crimes allegations on Tuesday.
He said he had “a robust discussion with the President yesterday,” and that he offered “the facts, the options, my advice, the recommendations.”
Beyond that, Esper said, “we’ll see how things play out,” adding that he has “full confidence in the military justice system.”
An administration official tells CNN the President is still considering whether to move ahead.
Esper’s intervention followed a Monday meeting with Army and Navy leaders called to discuss the matter.
Those leaders, like most Army and Navy military and civilian officials, are expressing extreme dismay about the possibility that the soldiers’ sentences could be dismissed or changed, according to several sources directly familiar with their thinking.
CNN has spoken to a dozen officials throughout the Pentagon who say the military legal justice system should be allowed to run its course, especially because the cases involve war crimes allegations.