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A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter flies over Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 30, 2007 (AP photo by Marko Drobnjakovic).

Trump’s Pardons of U.S. Soldiers Send a Very Dangerous Message, at Home and Abroad

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Of all the constitutional powers enjoyed by the U.S. president, perhaps none is so vulnerable to abuse as the presidential pardon. As a check against the potential abuse of power by the judicial branch, it serves an important constitutional function. As a public demonstration of clemency and the power of redemption, it contributes symbolically to the health of the republic. But when used improperly, the pardon becomes a poison to the body politic, rather than an antidote to what is ailing it.

This is certainly the case when it comes to President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon Michael Behenna, a U.S. special operations forces officer convicted by a court martial of murdering a detainee in Iraq in 2008. Trump is also reportedly considering pardons for several other U.S. officers accused of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, but who have not yet stood trial. ...

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