McRaven: Trump 'needs to be very careful' about pardoning US troops accused of war crimes

news

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven speaks at his retirement ceremony in 2014.

(Flickr/Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp)

Retired U.S. Navy Adm. William McRaven, a former Navy SEAL who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid in 2011, warned that President Donald Trump "needs to be very careful" about a presidential pardon for several military veterans accused of war crimes.

"I think the president needs to be very careful at this point," McRaven said in a Fox News interview on Tuesday. "Obviously the president can pardon [whomever] he thinks is appropriate to pardon."

"But the way it works in the military, you have to be careful as a senior commander about unduly influencing the process before the investigation has been adjudicated," McRaven added.


Trump is reportedly considering pardoning several former service members and military contractors from high-profile investigations around Memorial Day, according to The New York Times.

The White House is believed to have requested dossiers on numerous cases, including one on U.S. Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who is scheduled to appear in court next week on charges of killing an enemy prisoner with a knife and shooting Iraqi civilians in 2017.

The pardoning process typically takes months, one senior military official told The Times, but the Justice Department was asked to have the files ready by Memorial Day weekend.

Questions surrounding Trump's willingness to pardon the alleged war criminals have intensified after he pardoned the former Lt. Michael Behenna, a U.S. Army Ranger who was convicted of killing an Iraqi prisoner in 2008. The White House in a statement reasoned that Behenna was a "model prisoner" during his incarceration and highlighted the military's "broad support" of his service.

McRaven, who previously rebuked Trump after the president sought to revoke the security clearances of former US intelligence officials, said any pardons from the commander-in-chief ought to be delayed until the criminal matters are settled in court.

"A senior officer is not allowed to imply how he thinks the investigation should come out," McRaven said. "That is called unduly influencing the investigation. So by the president signaling that he wants to or might pardon any individual, I'm concerned that that unduly influences the commanders below him."

"Now, once the trial is over and the president has an opportunity to read all the evidence and make a decision, obviously he's well within his right to pardon whoever he thinks," McRaven added.

McRaven is not alone in this thinking. Retired US Marine Corps Gen. Charles Krulak, the 31st commandant of the Marine Corps, said in a statement that if Trump proceeds with the pardons, "he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world."

"We can talk all we want about what he's doing with the rule of law under his authority but to start saying that a trial by jury under the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] is now something that can be overturned is sending just a terrible signal to the men and women who are currently serving," Krulak told Task & Purpose.

"It sets a precedent that we could possibly regret."

Read more from Business Insider:

SEE ALSO: 'Fox And Friends' Co-host Pete Hegseth Reportedly Convinced Trump To Consider Pardons For US Troops Accused Of War Crimes

WATCH NEXT: The Navy SEAL Accused Of War Crimes In Iraq

The newly painted F-15 Eagle flagship, dubbed the Heritage Jet, was painted to honor 1st Lt. David Kingsley, the namesake for Kingsley Field, and his ultimate sacrifice. (U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar)

An F-15C Eagle is sporting a badass World War II-era paint job in honor of a fallen bomber pilot who gave everything to ensure his men survived a deadly battle.

Read More
A screenshot from a video appearing to show the wreckage of an Air Force E-11A communications aircraft in Afghanistan (Twitter)

A U.S. E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed on Monday on Afghanistan, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has confirmed.

Read More
In this June 7, 2009 file photo Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) points to a player behind him after making a basket in the closing seconds against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Los Angeles. Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. He was 41. (Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill)

Beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday. Two days earlier, Army Spc. Antonio I. Moore was killed during a vehicle rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations in Syria.

Which one more deserves your grief and mourning? According to Maj. Gen. John R. Evans, commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, you only have enough energy for one.

Read More
U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) 19.2, observe protestors toss Molotov Cocktails over the wall of the Baghdad Embassy Compound in Iraq, Dec. 31, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kyle C. Talbot)

One person was injured by Sunday's rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Task & Purpose was learned. The injury was described as mild and no one was medically evacuated from the embassy following the attack.

Read More
A coalition airstrike destroys an ISIS-K fighting position during Afghan Commando offensive operations in Mohmand Valley, Nangarhar province on Feb. 4, 2018. (U.S. Army/Spc. Jacob Krone)

The U.S. military dropped more munitions on targets across Afghanistan in 2019 than during any other year stretching back to at least 2009, according to Air Force data.

Read More