President Trump appeared to upend a Navy SEAL administrative board days before it was set to begin by tweeting Thursday that the Navy will not strip a decorated SEAL of his coveted trident pin and expel him from the elite force in the wake of his court-martial conviction for posing with the corpse of an enemy combatant.
In a tweet, Trump said: “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”
Rear Adm. Charlie Brown, the Navy’s chief of information, said the Navy was waiting for Trump to issue more specific orders before officially canceling the review that could have led to the expulsion of Chief Petty Officer Edward R. Gallagher from the SEALs.
“The Navy follows the lawful orders of the president,” Brown said in a statement. “We are aware of the president’s tweet and we are awaiting further guidance.”
The Thursday morning tweet from Trump came an hour after one of Gallagher’s civilian attorneys, Timothy Parlatore, appeared on “Fox & Friends” decrying the Navy’s move to potentially oust Gallagher from the SEALs.
On the morning show, known to be a favorite of Trump’s, the attorney called Rear Adm. Collin Green’s move to review Gallagher that of a coward.
Green is the two-star admiral in charge of Naval Special Warfare Command.
In an email Thursday, Gallagher’s other civilian attorney, Marc Mukasey — who also is one of Trump’s personal attorneys — said the SEAL’s team was “never shutting up” about the injustice they say Gallagher faced.
“They cheated,” Mukasey said about the Navy. “They lost at trial. They want Eddie to suffer. We want him to retire in peace.”
Gallagher was charged with killing a wounded Islamic State captive and shooting civilians during his time in Iraq in 2017. At the end of his court-martial, a jury acquitted him of the most serious allegations but convicted him of the relatively minor offense of posing for photos with the body of the dead fighter.
A military jury sentenced Gallagher to four months’ confinement, which he served before trial, and reduced his rank to petty officer 1st class, or E-6.
Last week, Trump restored Gallagher’s rank to E-7, or chief petty officer. The same day, Trump pardoned two Army service members accused of war crimes. His action on Gallagher’s behalf was not a pardon or an exoneration.
On Tuesday, news broke that the Navy SEALs were launching a review of four SEALs involved in Gallagher’s war crimes case — Gallagher, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier and Lt. Thomas MacNeil.
Trump’s tweet led to some confusion in the Navy, because the tweet named only Gallagher while the three other SEALs were still awaiting administrative review.
A senior Navy official said all of the review boards had been halted pending further guidance from Trump.
Gallagher is the only one of the four convicted of a crime. Portier was charged with covering up the wounded Islamic State fighter’s killing and ordering his men to appear in the photo with the fighter’s body, but the Navy dropped those charges in August when it launched a review of its Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
MacNeil, Gallagher’s platoon commander in Iraq, admitted during testimony at Gallagher’s court-martial that he drank alcohol with enlisted SEALs during their 2017 deployment, which was against regulations.
Breisch was the SEAL troop commander during that deployment. His court-martial testimony about when he became aware of the allegations against Gallagher conflicted with that of other SEALs.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) took to Twitter on Thursday to comment on Trump’s tweet.
“Thank you, Mr. President! I couldn’t agree more,” he wrote. “I will continue to stand with you in your fight on behalf of our combat warriors and against the Deep State Military.”
Parlatore, Gallagher’s attorney, told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Thursday that now that Gallagher has had his rank restored and could have his status as a SEAL protected, all that was left was for his record to be expunged of the court-martial conviction.
However, Parlatore said, he was not filing a request to have that done yet.
“If POTUS just does it, I don’t need to,” Parlatore said in a text message, referring to the president.
Dyer writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.