Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said Friday that SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher should face a planned “trident review board” that could lead to his ouster from the elite force, despite President Trump’s tweet Thursday that Gallagher should remain a SEAL.
Spencer told Reuters at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, that he supports the hearing into whether Gallagher can keep his trident pin, a symbol of the SEALs, in light of Gallagher’s conviction at a general court-martial in San Diego in July.
“I believe the process matters for good order and discipline,” Spencer said.
On Tuesday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the decision by Rear Adm. Collin Green to review the SEAL qualifications of Gallagher and three other service members connected to his war crimes case was made with the support of Navy leadership, including the chief of naval operations, Adm. Mike Gilday. Green is the commander of Naval Special Warfare Command.
Gallagher’s legal team said the decision to hold the review boards was a challenge to Trump’s authority as commander in chief.
Trump has intervened several times on Gallagher’s behalf. On Thursday, about an hour after one of Gallagher’s lawyers appeared on “Fox & Friends” decrying the review board, Trump took to Twitter to express his disapproval.
“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, told the Union-Tribune on Thursday that the Navy was waiting for Trump to issue more specific orders before officially canceling the review.
“The Navy follows the lawful orders of the president,” Brown said in a statement. “We will do so in case of an order to stop the administrative review of SOC Gallagher’s professional qualification. We are aware of the president’s tweet and we are awaiting further guidance.”
A senior Navy official told the Union-Tribune late Thursday that all four review boards have been halted pending further guidance from Trump.
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.
On Nov. 15, 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.
Dyer writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.