Trump Enforces Omertà With Latest Round of Pardons

The president sends a message to his lawbreaking loyalists: Maintain silence and you’ll earn your “get out of jail free” card.

By Matt Ford

President Donald Trump closed out the first week of impeachment hearings with a self-inflicted wound. Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testified on Friday morning that she felt “intimidated” by Trump’s remark in a phone call with the Ukrainian president that she was “bad news” and “going to go through some things.” As if to underscore Yovanovitch’s point, Trump criticized her in harsh terms during the hearing, drawing allegations of witness intimidation. One Democratic lawmaker declared that Trump’s language toward Yovanovitch “would have embarrassed a mob boss.”

Soon thereafter, Trump demonstrated his Mafia-like approach to government in a more concrete way. That afternoon, he used his pardon power to reverse and prevent the punishment of three U.S. soldiers who were accused or convicted of committing war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade. The timing of the pardons, which came just hours after a federal jury in D.C. convicted his longtime political adviser Roger Stone of lying to Congress and hindering the Russia investigation, couldn’t have been more appropriate. They reaffirmed Trump’s commitment to omertà, the code of silence whereby those who report wrongdoing are castigated and those who commit it—whether on his behalf or in ways he supports—are protected.

Trump gave formal pardons to 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Mathew Golsteyn of the Army, as well as a promotion to Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher. Lorance had already served six years of a 19-year sentence for murdering two men on a motorcycle in Afghanistan in 2012. Golsteyn was set to stand trial for hunting down and murdering an Afghan man after U.S. forces released him from custody. Gallagher escaped conviction on multiple murder charges but received a conviction earlier this year for desecrating a corpse; he was sentenced to time served and received a demotion that Trump’s move overrode.

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