Trump says he stood up to the 'deep state' by intervening in war crime cases

Trump says he stood up to the 'deep state' by intervening in war crime cases
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says inviting Russia to G7 'a question of common sense' Pentagon chief does not support invoking Insurrection Act Dershowitz: Does President Trump have power to declare martial law? MORE on Tuesday told supporters he pushed back against "the deep state" by pardoning and granting clemency to military members convicted of war crimes.

"I stuck up for three great warriors against the deep state," Trump said at a rally in Sunrise, Fla. "And you know what I’m talking about."

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The president was referring to a pardon he announced last week for Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher and grants of executive clemency for Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn and Army Lt. Clint Lorance. The decision came despite senior Pentagon officials raising concerns about Trump intervening in the military justice system and eventually led to the ouster of the Navy secretary.

"I had so many people say, 'Sir, I don’t think you should do that,'" Trump said Tuesday. "People have to be able to fight. These are great warriors. They can’t think ... if they made a mistake they were putting them in jail for 25 years."

"I will always stick up for our great fighters," he continued. "People can sit there in air-conditioned offices and complain, but you know what, doesn’t matter to me whatsoever."

Trump has in recent days defended exonerating the three servicemen, portraying it as a defense of the troops and their need to fight. But his rebuke of his own administration officials who expressed unease with the decision as the "deep state" marked an escalation.

Gallagher was convicted earlier this year of one charge of posing with an ISIS captive’s body. He was acquitted on more serious charges related to an incident where he allegedly shot at several civilians during a 2017 deployment and killed the ISIS captive, who was already injured, with a hunting knife.

Golsteyn, a former Green Beret, was charged with murder in the death of an Afghan man during a deployment in the war-torn country in 2010. Golsteyn had pleaded not guilty in the case.

Lorance was found guilty in 2013 of murder in the second degree for ordering his soldiers to fire on three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle. He has served six years of the 19-year prison sentence he received for the charge.

Gallagher's case in particular has been a point of controversy. Trump restored his rank and said last week that Gallagher would keep his trident pin, allowing him to remain part of the elite Navy SEAL force.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer reportedly threatened to resign if Trump intervened in the case. His efforts to broker a deal with the White House eventually led to his ouster by Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperPentagon chief does not support invoking Insurrection Act The Hill's Morning Report - Protesters' defiance met with calls to listen Pentagon moves 1,600 active-duty troops near DC as tensions escalate MORE.

Spencer warned in an interview after resigning that Trump's actions sent the message that "you can get away with things."