On Monday at the White House President Donald Trump explained his pardoning of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who he referred to as a "warrior," and contrasted Gallagher's military infraction with those of deserter Bowe Bergdahl and espionage agent Bradley "Chelsea" Manning, a transgender "woman" who leaked thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Gallagher, who fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and was awarded two Bronze Stars, was convicted in a military court for taking a picture of himself next to the body of a dead terrorist. He was sentenced to four months in jail -- cleared because of time already served -- and was demoted in rank.
On Nov. 15, President Trump ordered that Gallagher's rank be restored. On Nov. 24, the Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, was forced to resign for his mishandling of the case.
At the White House on Monday, Trump told reporters, "I think what I’m doing is sticking up for our Armed Forces. And there’s never been a president that’s going to stick up for them, and has, like I have, including the fact that we spent $2.5 trillion on rebuilding our Armed Forces."
"Some very unfair things were happening [with military cases]," said the president. "You let Sergeant [Bowe] Bergdahl go."
After Bergdahl deserted his fellow troops in 2009, he was captured by the Taliban and held as a prisoner for five years. Several U.S. soldiers who went looking for Bergdahl were killed or severely injured by terrorists. President Obama traded five Taliban terrorists for Bergdahl in May 2014.
In a U.S. military court, Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion; he was sentenced to be dishonorably discharged, reduced in rank to private; and fined $10,000, but faced no prison time. At the time, President Trump tweeted, "The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military."
Trump then said on Monday, "You let others go, including a young gentleman [Chelsea Manning], now a person who President Obama let go, who stole tremendous amounts of classified information. And you let that person go." Manning was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 35 years at the maximum-security prison at Fort Leavenworth.
However, President Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence from 35 years to seven years, starting from the time of his arrest in May 2010; Manning was released in 2017.
Commenting further, President Trump said, "But Sergeant Bergdahl, we just lost another man [Mark Allen] who went after — you know, he died last week. He went after from — he was paralyzed from just about the neck down and he died last week going after Sergeant Bergdahl, trying to find Sergeant Bergdahl."
"So when you have a system that allows Sergeant Bergdahl to go and you probably have five to six people killed, nobody even knows the number because he left, and he gets a slap in the wrist, if that," said Trump.
"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," said Trump. "I will stick up for the warriors.”
In addition to ordering the re-promotion of Navy SEAL Gallagher to Chief Petty Officer, Trump pardoned former Army Lt. Clint Lorance, in prison at Fort Leavenworth doing a 19-year stint for murdering two Afghan civilians, and Army Special Forces Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who was charged with murdering an alleged bomb-maker in Afghanistan and potentially faced years in prison.
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump described Bergdahl as a "dirty, rotten traitor."