US Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher and wife Andrea leave court after his acquitted of most of the serious charges against him, in San Diego, July 2, 2019.Reuters
- Senior Navy leaders have reportedly threatened to resign or be fired if President Donald Trump intervenes in plans to expel a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes.
- Trump has intervened in several such cases this month, despite strong appeals by military leaders not to do so.
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The secretary of the Navy and the admiral overseeing the service’s SEALs have threatened to resign or be fired if President Donald Trump blocks the expulsion of a member of the elite unit, administration officials told The New York Times.
The threats by Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Rear Adm. Collin Green are the latest instance of military officials reportedly pushing back against Trump’s interventions in the military justice system.
The turmoil in this case centers on Navy Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who was accused of shooting civilians, murdering a captured teenage ISIS fighter in Iraq, and threatening to kill SEALs who reported him, among other things.
Gallagher was ultimately acquitted of those charges in a court-martial earlier this year but was convicted on one charge of posing with the dead ISIS fighter’s body. He was sentenced to a loss of pay and of rank.
Trump has been one of Gallagher’s most vocal supporters, ordering Gallagher be moved to “less restrictive confinement” prior to the trial.
Afterward, Trump said commendations for the prosecutors in the case should be withdrawn, which was followed by Spencer revoking the Navy Achievement Medals and letters of commendation given to the Navy team that tried the case. (The lead prosecutor in the case was removed during the trial after defense lawyers accused the prosecution of misconduct, including spying on their emails.)
This month, Gallagher was one of three military service members accused or convicted of war crimes who Trump cleared, overruling military leaders who sought to punish them. For Gallagher, the move reversed his demotion.
Despite Trump’s admonishment, Navy officials appeared set to strip Gallagher of his Trident pin this week, effectively ending his membership in the elite force.
Navy officials reportedly summoned Gallagher on Wednesday, intending to inform him of his ouster. But as he waited, Navy leaders sought approval from the White House. That never arrived, and no action was taken, according to The Times.
On Thursday, Trump issued another warning to Navy officials over the case.
“The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” Trump tweeted. “This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”
The Pentagon had urged the president not to intervene in the cases. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Trump that blocking the removal of Gallagher’s trident would have severe consequences, including the loss of Spencer and Green and damage to military justice doctrine, administration officials told The Times.
On Friday, Spencer said he thought proceedings against Gallagher should go forward, telling Reuters in an interview that he believed “the process matters for good order and discipline.”
“I think we have a process in place, which we’re going forward with, and that’s my job,” Spencer added.