Donald Trump is not a big fan of rules, and the rules of war are no exception.
"Torture works," he said during his 2016 campaign. He also enjoyed telling a dubious story about a U.S. general, John Pershing, ordering the execution of Muslim rebel prisoners with bullets dipped in pigs' blood during an uprising in the Philippines more than a century ago.
Now Trump is considering pardons for several Americans charged or convicted in atrocities against unarmed civilians and captives in Iraq and Afghanistan, The New York Times reports. He wants the paperwork to be ready in time for Memorial Day, the report said.
One is Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, turned in by fellow Navy SEALS who accused him of indiscriminately shooting at civilians in Iraq — picking off an old man and a young girl from a sniper's nest — and stabbing a teenage captive to death, which he bragged about in text messages. Gallagher is awaiting trial.
Another is Green Beret Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, accused of killing an unarmed Afghan. Also under possible consideration for a pardon is Nicholas A. Slatten, a Blackwater security contractor convicted in a civilian court of participation in the unprovoked shooting deaths of 14 unarmed Iraqis, mostly women and children, in a Baghdad square.
Earlier this month, the president pardoned former Army First Lt. Michael Behenna, who had been convicted of killing an Iraqi during an interrogation in 2008.
James Stavridis, a former Navy admiral, warned on MSNBC against second-guessing verdicts against troops from military courts that "were their peers in a very real way, fellow combat veterans." Stavridis added: "We don't want to send a signal to the vast majority of our active-duty troops that would never engage in activity like this."
Trump tiptoes into abortion battle
While calling on anti-abortion activists to stay united, and back him in 2020, Trump signaled that a recent law adopted by Alabama is too extreme.
"I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions — Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother," Trump tweeted. He didn't specifically mention the Alabama law, which bans abortions in rape and incest cases.
Trump said, “We have come very far” on the anti-abortion front in the two-plus years since he took office, noting the addition of more than 100 conservative federal judges and two Supreme Court justices “and a whole new & positive attitude about the Right to Life.”
Janison: Hawk on a leash?
Trump clearly does not want to look like he is handing the keys to the U.S. war machine to National Security Adviser John Bolton, who seems the more willing to brandish military force against Iran and has been advocating regime change there for years.
“He has strong views on things which is OK, Trump has said. "I'm the one who tempers him … I have people who are a little more dovish than him." But letting underlings fight could be seen as signaling uncertainty and passivity in a dangerous crisis Trump helped create, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Trump created further confusion about his intentions in a Sunday afternoon tweet upon returning to the White House from his Virginia golf course: "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!"
Dissident Republican: Impeach Trump
Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan became the first Republican in Congress to call for Trump's impeachment for obstruction of justice. No one expects a rush of other GOP lawmakers to him.
Amash, a libertarian-minded conservative, tweeted Saturday that after reading special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page final report, he believes the “report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment.”
Trump responded on Twitter Sunday that Amash is "a total lightweight who opposes me" and "a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!"
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of the few Republicans to go so far as to say he was "troubled" by Mueller's revelations, said he didn't think "this was time to call for impeachment.” But he called Amash's statement "courageous." See Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
The Trump administration has called off a plan to ship 1,000 undocumented migrants to Florida's heavily Democratic Broward and Palm Beach counties. The reversal was announced after the state's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, complained about it and spoke to Trump.
Department of Homeland Security chief Kevin McAleenan told "Face the Nation" that "U.S. Customs and Border Protection did notify officials locally in those areas that they were looking at the possibility of doing that," but the CBP acting commissioner decided against doing so on Saturday.
Trump may have missed McAleenan's appearance, because he claimed in a Sunday afternoon tweet that news of the original plans was "false reporting."
McAleenan said the administration is focused on using southwest border areas to handle the influx of immigrants. He also said the immigrants are not getting moved to sanctuary jurisdictions, as Trump has said he wants to do.
Trump appeared to confirm authorizing a cyber-attack on Russia during the U.S. midterm elections. But try gauging the sense he makes in his statement.
In a Fox News appearance he said: "I would rather not say that, but you can believe that the whole thing happened, and it happened during my administration." Then he fell into a peevish personal rant, which is unusual when presidents discuss matters of national security.
"They don't like me to talk, intelligence says, 'please don't talk intelligence,' you know sometimes intelligence is good, and sometimes you look at Comey, and you look at Brennan and you look at Clapper, and I'm supposed to believe that intelligence? I never believe that intelligence."
For years there have been behind-the-scenes attacks and retaliations between the U.S. and other nations.
Trump: I've been Fox-saken
Does Trump feel he doesn't get enough attention from Fox News? Trump tweeted a complaint Sunday afternoon about his favorite network seeing other people because it was airing a town hall with Democratic 2020 contender Pete Buttigieg in the evening.
"Hard to believe that @FoxNews is wasting airtime on Mayor Pete," Trump tweeted. "Fox is moving more and more to the losing (wrong) side in covering the Dems. They got dumped from the Democrats boring debates, and they just want in. They forgot the people … who got them there."
Trump singled out Fox News' Chris Wallace, the town hall moderator. "Gee, he never speaks well of me — I like Mike Wallace better." The late Mike Wallace, Chris' father, was a top CBS newsman.
Earlier, Trump had tweeted a plug for an interview he gave Fox, mistakenly saying it would be shown at 8 p.m. Sunday, Later he tweeted the correct time — 9 p.m. — which means he was up against the "Game of Thrones" finale. Could that be why he was upset?
What else is happening:
- The president's prospective visit to Ireland next month may be called off because he wants his meeting with Ireland's prime minister to be held at the Trump golf resort in Doonbeg. An Irish government source told CNN the demand was "unseemly." The Irish have offered to host an official dinner at the nearby Dromoland Castle.
- Unlike many of his Democratic 2020 rivals, Mayor Bill de Blasio isn't hesitating to hit up business donors who want things from his New York City administration, Politico reports.
- Bernie Sanders is calling for a moratorium on federal funding for charter schools and a ban on for-profit charter schools. He also favored federal funding for busing to promote desegregation.
- Elizabeth Warren is showing signs of gaining traction with black female voters who like her detailed policy proposals on such issues as housing, child care and student debt, The Associated Press reports.
- Kirsten Gillibrand, on CBS' "Face the Nation," said that as president she would not detain migrants seeking asylum in the United States and would "defund" the for-profit detention centers used to house them, Newsday's Figueroa reports.
- Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that transactions involving entities controlled by Trump and Jared Kushner were suspicious enough to be reported to a federal financial crimes watchdog, The New York Times reported. But higher-ups rejected the advice.