Democratic presidential aspirant Pete Buttigieg said Thursday that he thinks it is “disgusting” that President Trump is reportedly considering pardons for several American military members accused or convicted of war crimes.
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., who served in Afghanistan as a Navy Reserve intelligence officer, said during an appearance at a Washington Post Live event that such pardons would hurt the standing of the U.S. military abroad and make troops less safe.
“My view is it’s disgusting,” Buttigieg said, adding that it is important to maintain the credibility of the U.S. military justice system. “If the president blows a hole in that, he is blowing a hole in the military, and he is putting troops’ lives at risk.”
Buttigieg said that during his military service, “the flag on my shoulder represented a country that kept its word. . . . If we lose that, nothing will keep us safe.”
Several recent reports have said Trump is considering some pardons of military members on an expedited basis to exercise his power around Memorial Day.
Buttigieg’s military service came up at several points during a wide-ranging interview with The Post’s Robert Costa.
Buttigieg, 37, the youngest candidate in the Democratic presidential field, referred to his military service when seeking to make the case that he could take on Trump.
“I don’t have a problem standing up to someone who was working on Season 7 of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan,” Buttigieg said, citing Trump’s previous NBC reality television series.
Buttigieg also accused Trump of skirting military service in Vietnam for an illegitimate reason.
“I have a pretty dim view of his decision to use his privilege to fake a disability in order to avoid serving in Vietnam,” Buttigieg said.
Pressed by Costa, Buttigieg said, “That’s exactly what he did.”
Trump has said he received a medical deferment in 1968 because he had bone spurs in his feet.
The New York Times reported late last year that the daughters of a deceased podiatrist said it was “family lore” that their father provided the diagnosis as a favor to Trump’s father, who owned the building in which the podiatrist practiced.
Buttigieg said the issue is one that “deserves to be talked about.”
During the interview, Buttigieg disagreed with Trump on the issue of whether National Football League players should be allowed to kneel during the national anthem. Trump has repeatedly decried that practice, saying it is disrespectful to the U.S. flag and military.
Asked about his view as a service member, Buttigieg said: “I thought I was watching Americans exercise a right that I had put my life on the line to defend.”
The players who began the practice in 2016 said they were protesting racial injustice.
The full transcript can be found at https://www.washingtonpost.com/washington-post-live/2019/05/23/transcript-candidates-mayor-pete-buttigieg/?utm_term=.75b6c3de6feb