Navy Mutinies Against President Trump; Sec. Spencer Says Still Planning on Review to Take Eddie Gallagher’s SEAL Trident Despite Order From POTUS
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said in an exclusive interview with Reuters Friday that despite President Trump’s tweet on Thursday ordering the Navy to stand down, the Navy still plans to haul Navy Special Operations Chief Eddie Gallagher before a review board next month to kick him out of the SEALs and take away his Trident Pin. The move against Gallagher came just days after Trump restored Gallagher’s rank and pay grade following a malicious court martial that saw Gallagher acquitted of murder charges but convicted of a minor offense of posing for a photograph with the corpse of an ISIS fighter in Iraq in 2017.
Trump’s order: “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!”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2019
The Navy has acknowledged Trump’s tweet telling them to not take Gallagher’s Trident, but apparently does not consider it a formal order and is going ahead with the December 2 review. Rear Admiral Charlie Brown, Chief of Information for Navy issued a statement late on Thursday that said, “The Navy follows the lawful orders of the President. 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.”
Excerpts from Reuters’ exclusive interview with Secretary Spencer:
U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said on Friday a Navy SEAL convicted of battlefield misconduct should face a board of peers weighing whether to oust him from the elite force, despite President Donald Trump’s assertion that he not be expelled.
“I believe the process matters for good order and discipline,” Spencer told Reuters, weighing in on a confrontation between Trump and senior Navy officials over the outcome of a high-profile war-crimes case.
…Asked whether he believed the proceedings against Gallagher should continue, Spencer, in an interview at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, said, “Yes, I do.”
“I think we have a process in place, which we’re going forward with, and that’s my job,” he added.
…Spencer acknowledged that Trump has the power to restore Gallagher’s SEAL status if Navy commanders decide to expel him, saying, “The commander in chief is the commander in chief … and he can do what he wants.”
The Navy Times reported the Navy internally considers Trump’s order unlawful (hence the statement by Rear Adm. Brown about following “lawful orders”).
It remains unclear if Navy leaders consider Trump’s tweet to be an actual order.
And even if it’s an order, they seem to have cast doubt on whether it’s lawful, arguing internally that the fate of Gallagher’s trident is an agency regulatory matter, much like determining whether a pilot can qualify for a license.
Just as the president can’t order the Federal Aviation Administration to certify his son as a pilot, the commander in chief can’t order them to keep Gallagher a SEAL, they’re suggesting behind closed doors.
The Navy Times reported that the subject of Gallagher’s review–his conviction for posing with the corpse of an ISIS fighter–is unique in that Gallagher was the only one prosecuted even though several other SEALs are in the photo with him.
Gallagher had been accused of committing a string of war crimes in Iraq in 2017 while the top enlisted sailor in Alpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7. The 40-year-old SEAL was acquitted by a military jury of murder, obstruction of justice and all the other major charges during a July court-martial trial.
Yet the panel of his peers found him guilty on the sole charge of posing alongside a dead Islamic State prisoner of war’s body, a charge he never denied.
At least a dozen other SEALs, including a commissioned officer, also appeared in images next to the body, but they were never charged with the crime.
Earlier this week Gallagher filed a complaint with the Department of Defense Inspector General over the handling of his case and included an accusation that the head of the SEALs Naval Special Warfare commander Rear Admiral Collin Green uttered contemptuous words against President Trump when discussing Trump’s support of Gallagher on Monday. The IG complaint can be read at this link.