On November 15, Trump overruled his top military officials and made the unprecedented decision to pardon or reinstate three US service members who were either convicted or were facing trial of war crimes.
"For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country," the White House said in a statement. "These actions are in keeping with this long history."
Trump signed an executive order to grant clemency to US Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who was convicted of ordering soldiers to engage three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle, killing two of them in July 2012. Lorance served six years of his 19-year sentence.
Trump also signed an executive order to grant clemency to US Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, whose trial has yet to begin. Golsteyn stands accused of killing an unarmed Afghan man in 2010, and later disposing the body in a trash pit.
US Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was demoted after a military trial found him guilty of posing in a picture with the corpse of an ISIS militant, had his rank reinstated to chief petty officer by Trump. Gallagher was accused of pre-mediated and attempted murder in the stabbing of an ISIS fighter and an alleged shooting of two people in Iraq in 2017. Gallagher was acquitted on both counts, but was found guilty in the lesser charge of posing with a corpse in a photograph.
The executive decision eventually resulted in the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who claimed Trump "has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military."
"Americans need to know that 99.9% of our uniformed members always have, always are, and always will make the right decision," Spencer said in an opinion column published in The Washington Post. "Our allies need to know that we remain a force for good, and to please bear with us as we move through this moment in time."