Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher might be forced out of the Navy’s elite SEAL unit, despite being acquitted in July on nearly all charges and a recent pardon from President Trump on the one minor charge that did stick.
The New York Times reports that SEAL commander Rear Adm. Collin Green “now has the authorization he needs from the Navy” to remove Gallagher’s Trident pin — the symbol of his SEAL status — and “effectively end” his career. Gallagher reportedly had already planned to retire from the Navy, even after being found Not Guilty on the most serious charges against him. But as NYT‘s Dave Phillips noted, “in a warrior culture that prizes honor and prestige, the rebuke would still cast [him] out of a tight-knit brotherhood.”
For almost a year, Gallagher faced court-martial charges of premeditated murder, attempted murder, obstruction of justice, posing for a photo with a casualty, and other offenses. A jury acquitted him of everything but posing for a photo with an enemy corpse, a conviction that busted Gallagher from chief petty officer to 1st class petty officer. The reduction in rank could also have cost the SEAL veteran up to $200,000 in lost retirement pay.
In October, Gallagher’s defense attorney Timothy Parlatore wrote that the “Navy SEALs have a problem, but it’s not my client Edward Gallagher.” In a column for USA Today, Parlatore claimed that “Rear Adm. Collin Green should abandon his fixation on punishing Eddie Gallagher.” He continued:
Eddie Gallagher spent months in jail for a murder he did not commit. His children were dragged from their home in their underwear at gunpoint by Navy criminal investigation agents. Prosecutors repeatedly violated his constitutional rights. Senior Navy SEAL leaders tried to improperly influence the proceedings and send him to jail for life. But an impartial jury found Gallagher not guilty of every serious charge.
Just before the trial began, Green touted the results of a study on Navy SEAL culture as “properly balancing a culture of operational excellence with a culture of sound ethical compliance.” After the trial, he reversed himself to say “we have a problem.”
There was not a precipitous deterioration in the culture, but rather the sudden need to find a scapegoat because during the trial, we had exposed massive leadership failures.
Parlatore also noted that there were others who had posed with the body but were not prosecuted. In fact, several received immunity in exchange for testifying for the prosecution. Their testimony included grisly murder details which the jury apparently found unconvincing.
Gallagher’s trial was marred by prosecutorial misconduct which the judge determined had violated the SEAL’s constitutional rights. Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, refrained from imposing the maximum rank reduction on Gallagher, although he did reject Gallagher’s appeal for clemency and upheld the jury’s sentence.
In the military’s legal circles, there was concern about Trump’s pardon of Gallagher and two other SEALs brought up on similar charges. One, Army Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, Trump pardoned even before his scheduled court-martial could be conducted. However, the president’s constitutional pardon power is effectively unlimited, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of complaints or worry about Trump’s action from the rank and file.
For his part, Gallagher has filed an inspector general’s complaint against Adm. Green, accusing him of uttering contemptuous statements about his commander-in-chief, President Trump. The Navy Times’ Carl Prine wrote late Tuesday that Gallagher’s move had been in the works “for four months” and seems to have been timed to coincide with Green’s move on his Trident.
If you’re trying to make sense out of all of this, the short version is that we have a highly decorated and combat-tested SEAL chief who seems to have it in for a highly decorated and combat-tested SEAL. That puts the Navy brass on a collision course with President Trump, although POTUS has yet to weigh in on the latest news. Between Trump’s silence on this and the super-controversial Swalwell Emission, many of us here at PJMedia wonder if someone took Trump’s iPhone away.
A jury did find that Gallagher acted with what we might fairly describe as indiscipline. For that, he was convicted by a UCMJ jury and effectively driven out of the Navy. But that leaves the question: Should Gallagher also lose his Trident pin and be forever removed from the SEAL brotherhood?