WILKES BARRE, PA - AUGUST 02: President Donald J. Trump speaks to a large crowd on August 2, 2018 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes Barre,...
Rick Loomis

Trump highlights accused war criminals at Republican fundraiser

It’s been nearly a month since Donald Trump, ignoring senior Pentagon officials and military justice experts, intervened in three cases involving accused American war criminals. As the New York Times reported, the president welcomed two of the three to join him on stage at a Florida fundraiser over the weekend.

Mr. Trump, as the featured speaker, invited up Army First Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, according to a report in The Miami Herald that was confirmed by a person with knowledge of the event.

The fund-raiser, which was held Saturday at the J.W. Marriott Turnberry Resort and Spa in Aventura and benefited the Republican Party of Florida, was closed to reporters. A Republican official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the event, said that the officers were guests of an attendee and that they had not been part of the program. Mr. Trump appears to have called them up upon learning they were there.

As NBC News recently reported, Lorance received a 19-year murder sentence after being convicted of ordering an enlisted soldier to open fire on a group of unarmed Afghans in 2012. At his court-martial, the report added, “several of Lorance’s soldiers testified the Afghan men posed no imminent threat.”

Golsteyn, meanwhile, was awaiting trial, accused of murdering a suspected Afghan bomb maker in 2010.

The president’s intervention in their cases is likely to become a campaign talking point in the coming months – as The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer recently put it, “Donald Trump is a war-crimes enthusiast” – and we probably haven’t seen the last of the Republican standing alongside the accused war criminals in a political setting. The Daily Beast reported two weeks ago:

If Donald Trump gets his wish, he’ll soon take the three convicted or accused war criminals he spared from consequence on the road as special guests in his re-election campaign, according to two sources who have heard Trump discuss their potential roles for the 2020 effort.

Despite military and international backlash to Trump’s Nov. 15 clemency – fallout from which cost Navy Secretary Richard Spencer his job on Sunday – Trump believes he has rectified major injustices. Two people tell The Daily Beast they’ve heard Trump talk about how he’d like to have the now-cleared Clint Lorance, Matthew Golsteyn, or Edward Gallagher show up at his 2020 rallies, or even have a moment on stage at his renomination convention in Charlotte next year.

Once in a while, stories can be predictable and disheartening simultaneously.