War Criminal Employed by Congressional Republicans

Donald Trump is apparently not the only one with a fetish for war criminals.

“Matt Gaetz” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I don’t quote The Intercept often but their report “MATT GAETZ’S LEGISLATIVE AIDE IS A CONVICTED WAR CRIMINAL” is rather hard to ignore.

DERRICK MILLER, a former U.S. Army National Guard sergeant who spent eight years in prison for murdering an Afghan civilian in 2010, now serves as a legislative assistant covering military policy for Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz.

While on a combat mission in Afghanistan’s Laghman province on September 26, 2010, Miller shot 27-year-old Atta Mohammed in the head during an interrogation. Miller has maintained that he was acting in self-defense, alleging that Mohammed, who had walked through a defensive perimeter established by Miller’s unit, could be a threat to his unit and that he had tried to grab Miller’s weapon during the interrogation. But another National Guard member testified he heard Miller threaten to kill Mohammed if he did not tell the truth; and then sat on top of him — Mohammed was lying prone — before shooting him in the head, killing him. According to the prosecutor, Miller then said, “I shot him. He was a liar.”

Mohammed’s body was left in a latrine, in violation of military standards.

Miller covers armed forces and national security, international affairs, and veterans affairs for Gaetz, according to the Congress-tracking website LegiStorm. Gaetz serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

“We proudly stand with our Military Legislative Assistant Derrick Miller,” Joel Valdez, a spokesperson for Gaetz, told The Intercept. “He was wrongfully convicted and served our country with honor.”

Miller did not respond to a request for comment.

“Over the course of nearly a decade, members of Congress, multiple advocacy groups, and over 16,000 individuals on a petition have all signaled their support for clearing his name and recognizing him as innocent of charges imposed by a weaponized military injustice system under President Obama,” the spokesperson continued. “Mr. Miller advises our office on many matters, including ways to make the military justice system consistent with our constitutional principles and values.”

Court-martialed and found guilty of premeditated murder of a civilian by a 10-member military jury after a two-hour deliberation, Miller was sentenced to life in prison in 2011, before being released on parole following a lobbying effort for his release. In 2017, Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to review the case. “As you know, our troops face extremely difficult decisions while serving in the heat of battle,” the letter stated.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, also testified in his defense. By 2018, following a clemency hearing, the Army reduced Miller’s sentence to 20 years, making him eligible for parole. He was released on May 20, 2019.

Miller previously served as a military adviser for Gohmert from July 2019 to September of last year. During the same time period, Miller was executive director of the Congressional Justice for Warriors Caucus, which describes itself as “dedicated to educating members of Congress about combat-related incidents where U.S. service members who are fighting for our freedoms have been unjustly incarcerated under the [Uniform Code of Military Justice].” CJWC’s membership includes five Republicans: Reps. Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Ralph Norman, Greg Murphy, and Brian Babin.

The Legistorm site confirms that Miller was employed by Gohmert from July 2019-September 2022 and has been with Gaetz since. The New York Post runs almost the identical story (“Matt Gaetz staffer was previously convicted of a war crime in Afghanistan“).

The notion that the UCMJ was “weaponized” under President Obama is simply bizarre. And court martial panels tend to give substantial deference to the judgment of soldiers, let alone relatively junior soldiers, under the stress of combat. I am, therefore, highly confident that Miller’s conviction was just.

Oddly, there is an out-of-context page dedicated to Miller on the University of Chicago Law School’s Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic arguing that Miller just did what he thought he had to do. It sounds as if it was written by an undergraduate.

Regardless, the whole thing is just bizarre. Surely, there are people Gohmert and Gaetz could have hired who aren’t convicted war criminals?

For that matter, Miller seems spectacularly unqualified for the job—strongly leading me to believe he was hired solely because he was a convicted war criminal! He was a National Guard buck sergeant who served from 2006-2010; that’s not a lot of military experience! He has no education beyond high school and his civilian occupation was prison guard. How in the hell is he qualified to advise Congress on military affairs?

FILED UNDER: Congress, Crime, Military Affairs, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tony W says:

    When you give up the idea of responsibly legislating, and your sole purpose in life becomes triggering the liberals, the credentialling process becomes different too.

    See also MTG, Kyle Rittenhouse, Donald Trump, Boebert, George Santos, etc.

  2. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Day 3,301 of “Own the Libs” as a one-line summary of GQP on just about any issue you can think of. Hiring qualified personnel is not a consideration.

  3. Joe says:

    who served from 2006-201;

    James, I think you are missing a digit.

    [Fixed. The WYSIWYG editor is being very wonky this morning after a WordPress version “upgrade.” -jhj]

  4. Chris says:

    Today’s GOP is as bad as they want to be…

  5. Thomm says:

    The GOP has been absolutely fine with war criminals for quite some time. How soon we forget about Allenn West; for a time the official face and voice of the Texas GOP as well as a representative from Florida.

  6. Jen says:

    Appalling but unsurprising. Yes, of course he was hired *because* he is a war criminal. This is just yet another iteration of the constant victimhood of conservatives. They behave in unconscionable ways, it’s all “BuT ObAMa” and “YoU juST doN’T uNdErstANd cOmBat.”

    This clown should be in jail, not working in a Congressional office, but he became the cause du jour for some Republicans and now here we are.

    To repeat: Republicans are no longer Bush the Elder, or Jack Danforth, or Christine Todd-Whitman. They are these idiots: Gohmert, Gaetz, Trump. It’s really important for people to understand this.

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    I followed the University of Chicago essay back to its source. It was from something called “The Combat Clemency Project,” now defunct, and it looks like it was a “Project Innocence” but for people who were very much guilty and also sh!tbags. Why the site is still live– it’s addressed to President Obama–is beyond me.

  8. JohnMc says:

    @Thomm: And the same demographic valorized Lt Calley of Mi Lai fame. What the hell is wrong with those people?!

  9. Charley in Cleveland says:

    Maybe this is why Gaetz asks such dumb questions when Pentagon officials are summoned to Congress.

  10. mattbernius says:

    He has no education beyond high school and his civilian occupation was prison guard.

    Sadly, I was not surprised to learn what his civilian career was. And, in practice, its probably easier to get justice for mistreated foreign nationals than it is for mistreatment of US prisioners.

    @Neil Hudelson:
    I did a bit more digging into the professor who ran that clinic, Mark Heyrman, and he’s a really interesting guy. Definitely not a right winger and is deeply concerned with issues of mental health issues (which may be motivating the defense of those folks).

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “I shot him. He was a liar.”

    So, he shoots liars. Gaetz had better not turn his back to Miller.

  12. Fortunato says:

    @Thomm: Lest we forget the winger minor diety, former NRA Grand Poobah, 16 Felony indictment little treason weasel and long time Fox ‘News’ touchstone for all things military – LtCol Oliver North.

  13. Thomm says:

    @Fortunato: true, but he wasn’t a war criminal. Just a run of the mill criminal.

  14. Andy says:

    Just when you think the douchebaggery of people like Gaetz can’t go any lower…

  15. Mikey says:

    In 2017, Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to review the case. “As you know, our troops face extremely difficult decisions while serving in the heat of battle,” the letter stated.

    This is such fatuous bullshit. We hear it every time an American commits a war crime. The war criminal at issue here wasn’t doing fuck-all “in the heat of battle,” he was interrogating (poorly) a civilian and decided to get his rocks off by shooting the guy in the head.

    Sadistic, stupid, and evil, the trifecta of what today’s GOP valorizes.

  16. Gustopher says:

    As the late Teve would say, “shitty people with shitty values.”

  17. just nutha says:

    @Andy: Hit bottom? Not to worry, that’s why God made shovels, donchakno.

  18. senyorDave says:

    The only regret Gaetz has is that he can’t find any Nazi war criminals still living. They would be valued members of his staff.

  19. DrDaveT says:

    Mohammed’s body was left in a latrine, in violation of military standards.

    Someone here aspires to Pythonesque levels of ironic understatement.