President Donald Trump wants to be known as a president who stood up for the armed forces, defending at a rally on Tuesday his decision to pardon two soldiers convicted of war crimes.
“Just this week, I stuck up for three great warriors against the Deep State,” Trump told cheering supporters during the rally in Sunrise, Florida, on Tuesday night.
Trump said he pardoned two soldiers this month despite many of his advisers arguing against it.
“People have to be able to fight; these are great warriors,” Trump said.
He asserted that soldiers should not have to look over their shoulders while fighting or worry about their own country prosecuting them if they make a mistake.
“I will always stick up for our great fighters. People can sit there in air-conditioned offices and complain, but you know what? Doesn’t matter to me whatsoever,” Trump said. “They’re out in that field and they’re doing a job for us like nobody else anywhere in the world can do.”
Trump pointed to the case of Army First Lt. Clint Lorance, who had already served six years in prison for a 19-year sentence he received after ordering his platoon to fire on men on a motorcycle in Afghanistan he thought were terrorists.
“He came out. He hugged his parents. It was a beautiful thing. We gave him a pardon because we take care of our warriors,” Trump said, referring to a video of his family welcoming him after his release:
Trump’s decision drew criticism from the media as well as Democrat presidential candidates, but the president indicated that he wanted his legacy to be different from that of former President Barack Obama.
A reporter asked President Trump on Monday if with his decision he was sending the wrong message to American soldiers.
Trump replied that he was sticking up for the military against what he saw as an “unfair” system.
He referred to the case of Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed under President Barack Obama’s administration in 2014 and hailed as a hero, despite his decision to desert his post.
“When you have a system that allows Sgt. Bergdahl to go, and you probably had five to six people killed … and he gets a slap on the wrist, if that, and then you have a system where these warriors get put in jail for 25 years — I’m going to stick up for our warrior,” Trump said.
Bergdahl received a dishonorable discharge for his actions, avoiding prison time.
Trump also noted that Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning, a soldier who stole classified information and leaked it to WikiLeaks.
“Chelsea Manning went around and badmouthed President Obama on top of everything else,” Trump said, referring to a column Manning wrote criticizing Obama’s legacy.
Obama commuted Manning’s 35-year prison sentence shortly before leaving office in 2017: