- The Washington Times
Thursday, November 7, 2019

Pentagon officials are rejecting reports that Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper has tried to convince President Trump not to intervene in a series of high-profile legal cases of U.S. military members who have been convicted of serious crimes, such as former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.

Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, confirmed Thursday that Mr. Esper has spoken to the president about the cases but denied he was trying to persuade Mr. Trump to take any action in the cases one way or the other.

Mr. Trump asked for clarification about the case and the military’s due process system, the Pentagon spokesman said.

“The president sought information about it, and we’re providing it,” Mr. Hoffman said.

It’s not unusual, Mr. Hoffman said, for a president to take a particular interest in a case involving service members who have been accused of crimes.

There has been private grumbling at the Pentagon that Mr. Trump’s past public statements on the cases could taint the military justice process and that overruling martial-court judgments now could affect discipline and morale.

Mr. Hoffman wouldn’t comment about whether Mr. Trump might offer a Veterans Day pardon or commutation for military members currently in custody or facing trial or a demotion for criminal acts during a battle.

“That’s a hypothetical,” Mr. Hoffman said.

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