Fox News host Pete Hegseth has privately encouraged President Donald Trump to pardon some United States servicemen accused of war crimes, a person familiar with the conversations told CNN on Tuesday.
Hegseth has not publicly disclosed his efforts to help the servicemen, despite discussing their cases on “Fox & Friends” where he is a weekend co-host, according to footage reviewed by The Daily Beast, which was first to report the news of Hegseth’s efforts.
Contacted for comment Tuesday morning, Hegseth, the White House and a Fox News spokesperson all did not respond.
Hegseth, however, tweeted a link on Monday night to The Daily Beast’s story, adding a series of hashtags seemingly calling for the pardoning of some servicemen.
News of Hegseth’s behind-the-scenes involvement came after The New York Times reported over the weekend that Trump is considering pardoning several servicemen on or around Memorial Day.
Three officials told CNN that the Justice Department’s pardon office asked the military for case files for at least two US service members accused of premeditated murder, including a Navy SEAL, Special Operations Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, and Army Major Matt Golsteyn.
If Trump were to issue the pardons, they would come after lobbying efforts from Republican members of Congress and persistent coverage in conservative media, where the cases are cast as the result of overzealous prosecutors and a military tainted by political correctness.
On “Fox & Friends,” Hegseth has discussed the cases of Gallagher and Golsteyn. In November 2018, Hegseth conducted an in-studio interview with Gallagher’s brother, who used the opportunity to ask Trump to review the case. And in February, Hegseth interviewed Golsteyn.
Hegseth has not been shy about his views regarding the servicemen. He has publicly advocated for their causes, and on Saturday, after The Times reported Trump was considering pardons, Hegseth expressed his support.
“God bless our Commander-in-Chief,” Hegseth tweeted. “A true warfighter’s President. This would be amazing.”
Gallagher faces a slew of accusations connected to alleged violations of military law while he was deployed to the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2017, including a charge of premeditated murder in the stabbing death of an injured person, described as an ISIS fighter, in Iraq. Gallagher has pleaded not guilty.
Golsteyn, a Special Forces soldier and Afghanistan veteran, has been charged in a 2010 killing of a suspected bomb maker in Afghanistan as part of a battle in Helmand Province. His lawyer has maintained the death occurred during a mission ordered by his superiors.
Hegseth has a good relationship with Trump. He has interviewed the president on more than one occasion, been phoned into policy meetings at the White House, and even been considered by Trump as a potential Veterans Affairs secretary. On his Instagram account, Hegseth has also posed for pictures with Trump.
Hegseth is, of course, not the only Fox News host who is close to Trump. Sean Hannity, the Fox News prime time opinion host, is considered to be one of the president’s closest advisors, along with other network personalities, like Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Barbara Starr contributed reporting.