Hegseth has lobbied the president for four-and-a-half months to go easy on three military men accused of committing war crimes, the Beast reported on Monday.
The site wrote that Hegseth, an Iraq War veteran, has had multiple private conversations with Trump, advocating for several accused war criminals to be pardoned. These include Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL accused of opening fire on unarmed civilians, as well as killing a captured ISIS fighter receiving medical treatment. From the Daily Beast:
The Fox & Friends host repeatedly told Trump that the process had been “very unfair” to Gallagher, two of these sources tell The Daily Beast. Hegseth pushed the president not only to publicly help Gallagher, but since at least March has specifically advised Trump to pardon him and the other men, the sources said.
Hegseth’s characterization of men such as Gallagher just doing their jobs and getting penalized as a result couldn’t be any further from what the charges against Gallagher allege. According to Task & Purpose, Gallagher’s official charge sheet includes allegations of firing on civilians, possession of controlled substances, and obstruction of justice by attempting to dissuade his platoon from reporting his actions. Prosecutors reportedly introduced evidence of photos and text messages showing Gallagher posing next to the body of the ISIS fighter he had killed. (His lawyers say they have evidence that clears him.) He’s set to stand trial on May 28.
Hegseth has made no secret of his views. He has defended the accused war criminals on air—calling them “good guys” who made “tough calls” as recently as Sunday—and interviewed their family members. The Daily Beast reported that Hegseth never disclosed that he was advising the president on matters relating to his commentary and reporting himself.
Hegseth tweeted a celebration of the news of Trump’s potential pardoning on Saturday. On Monday night, he seemingly confirmed the Beast’s story, tweeting it along with hashtags supporting Gallagher and two others: Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, a former Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan man, and 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, convicted in 2013 for ordering the murder of two Afghan civilians.
All the while, Hegseth seems to have a completely personal stake in the matter. From the Daily Beast again, emphasis mine:
Ultimately, Hegseth said on Sunday, Trump pardoning Lorance, Gallagher, Golsteyn, and others would be “heartening for guys like me and others in the service” who want a president “defending the war fighter.”