Saturday, December 7, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He used convicted and indicted war criminals as a campaign prop.

Trump gave a closed-door fundraising speech to a conservative group in Florida this evening. Cell phones were barred and no audio or video has leaked out yet, but pool reports said that Trump brought along as a campaign prop two military officers he'd recently given pardons or commutations for war crimes.

Lt. Clint Lorance was serving a 19-year sentence, unanimously imposed by a jury of military officers, for ordering soldiers under his command to shoot at unarmed citizens in Afghanistan. Testimony against him from his own unit was crucial in securing his conviction on two counts of murder. As one of them said after the trial, "This isn't a soldier that went to war and gone done wrong. This is a soldier that had a taste for blood and wanted to have that fulfilled. And he did, but in the wrong way."

Maj. Matthew Golsteyn admitted to killing a suspected Afghan insurgent in an unauthorized mission in 2011, and conspiring to destroy the body so as to evade scrutiny from the Army. He was facing a murder trial when Trump pardoned him last month.

Both Golsteyn and Lorance made their case directly to Trump, appearing on TV they knew Trump watched, and trying to link their actions to conservative political causes. 

Trump, for his part, had already openly fantasized about campaigning with them, as well as a disgraced Navy SEAL he spared from a war crimes inquiry, even promising to make them appear at his renomination convention next year. It's not clear why Trump thinks convicted or admitted war criminals will play with voters, especially given the low popularity that Lorance and Golsteyn have among actual military servicemembers.

But for Trump, pardons have been political all along: he's offered them to all kinds of criminals who might be able to help him politically, and even though he legally can't, he's pointedly refused to rule out pardoning himself

Who cares?

  • It's wrong to release criminals just because they might say nice things about you.
  • Voters might not like Trump thinking that they want to see admitted murderers set free.