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‘Unfathomable evil’: Trump’s proposed plan to pardon war criminals provokes massive backlash

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Progressives, human rights advocates, and journalists responded with outrage on Saturday to a New York Times report that President Donald Trump “has requested the immediate preparation of paperwork needed to pardon several American military members accused or convicted of war crimes.”

Unnamed U.S. government officials told the Times that on or around Memorial Day, Trump may pardon multiple servicemembers involved with “high-profile cases of murder, attempted murder, and desecration of a corpse.”

As the newspaper reported:

The requests are for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who is scheduled to stand trial in the coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.

They are also believed to include the case of a former Blackwater security contractor recently found guilty in the deadly 2007 shooting of dozens of unarmed Iraqis; the case of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, the Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; and the case of a group of Marine Corps snipers charged with urinating on the corpse of a dead Taliban fighter.

“These are all extremely complicated cases that have gone through a careful system of consideration,” Gary Solis, a retired military judge and armor officer who served in Vietnam, told the Times. “A freewheeling pardon undermines that whole system.”

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Solis warned that pardoning servicemembers accused or convicted of war crimes “raises the prospect in the minds of the troops that says, ‘Whatever we do, if we can get the folks back home behind us, maybe we can get let off.'”

The news on Saturday came after Trump, earlier this month, pardoned former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, who was convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner in 2008. As Common Dreams reported at the time, human rights advocates decried that decision as “a presidential endorsement of a murder that violated the military’s own code of justice.”

The Times report—on which the White House and Justice Department declined to comment—was met with similar condemnation.

The Atlantic‘s Adam Serwer, who spoke out against Trump’s pardon of Behenna, tweeted, “This incentivizes the commission of war crimes by our opponents and allies, and in doing so puts U.S. servicemembers at greater risk.”

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Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth said, “Think of the horrible message that sends to would-be war criminals around the world.”

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Murtaza Mohammad Hussain, a reporter at The Intercept, denounced Trump’s expected move as “a huge injustice to those whose lives they destroyed and a message that America will tolerate war crimes.”

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Their criticism was echoed by others, including journalist Ryan Devereaux, who suggested that “if you were to make a list of ‘top notorious U.S. war crimes of the post-9/11 era’ it would look a lot like the president’s pardoning plans.”

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Trump’s DC hotel billed the Secret Service $200,000 in his first year of office: report

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On Thursday, NBC News reported that the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., billed the Secret Service $200,000 in just 2017.

Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal a stunning expenditure of security money paid to the Trump property, which was run out of the Old Post Office building and on lease from the General Services Administration. In one instance, the Secret Service spent $30,000 in two nights.

GSA has been criticized for its failure to consider conflicts of interest in leasing the building to the president in an inspector general report.

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Eric Trump declines to press charges against Chicago waitress who spit on him

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Eric Trump declined to press charges against a waitress who spit on him at an upscale cocktail bar in Chicago.

The waitress was taken into custody after spitting on President Donald Trump's younger son at The Aviary in the city's West Town neighborhood, and she was placed on leave by the bar's management, reported the Chicago Tribune.

“Eric was out to dinner on business, when a waitress … spit in his face,” a Trump Organization representative said in an email. Secret Service and Chicago police “immediately apprehended her and held her in handcuffs for approx(imately) two hours. Chicago PD was intending on pressing charges however Eric directed them not to and she was let go.”

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Senator Elizabeth Warren leads Democrats in spirited first 2020 debate

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Ten Democrats clashed in the first debate of the 2020 presidential race Wednesday with Elizabeth Warren cementing her status as a top-tier candidate and several underdogs using the issue of immigration to clamor for the limelight.

The biggest American political debate since the 2016 presidential campaign is occurring over two nights in Miami, climaxing Thursday with former vice president Joe Biden squaring off against nine challengers, including number two candidate Bernie Sanders.

But Wednesday's first take was a spirited encounter between Democrats like ex-congressman Beto O'Rourke, Senator Cory Booker, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on subjects as varied as health care, economic inequality, climate action, gun violence, Iran and immigration.

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