Navy plans to oust sailor cleared of war crimes by Trump from elite Seal team

Sailor pardoned for unlawfully posing for photo with body of dead Isis captive

Dave Philipps
Wednesday 20 November 2019 10:12 GMT
Navy officials plan to take away Mr Gallagher’s Trident pin, the symbol of his membership in the Seals
Navy officials plan to take away Mr Gallagher’s Trident pin, the symbol of his membership in the Seals (AP)

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The Navy Seal at the centre of a high-profile war crimes case has been ordered to appear before Navy leaders Wednesday morning, and is expected to be notified that the Navy intends to oust him from the elite commando force, two Navy officials have said.

The move could put the Seal commander, rear admiral Collin Green, in direct conflict with president Donald Trump, who last week cleared the sailor, chief petty officer Edward Gallagher, of any judicial punishment in the war crimes case.

Military leaders opposed that action as well as Mr Trump’s pardons of two soldiers involved in other murder cases.

Navy officials had planned to begin the process of taking away Gallagher’s Trident pin, the symbol of his membership in the Seals, earlier this month.

But as he waited outside his commander’s office, Navy leaders sought clearance from the White House that never came, and no action was taken.

Mr Green now has the authorisation he needs from the Navy to act against Gallagher, and the formal letter notifying the chief of the action has been drafted by the admiral, the two officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the impending action.

The Navy also plans to take the Tridents of three Seal officers who oversaw Gallagher – lieutenant commander Robert Breisch, lieutenant commander Jacob Portier and lieutenant commander MacNeil – and their letters have been drafted as well, one of the officials said.

The move sets up a potential confrontation between Mr Trump, who has repeatedly championed Gallagher, and Mr Green, who has said he intends to overhaul discipline and ethics in the Seal teams and sees Gallagher’s behaviour as an obstacle.

Defense attorney gives statement during navy Seal Edward Gallagher's murder trial

One Navy official who spoke about the specifics of the action said the admiral was making the move knowing that it could end his career.

The president has the authority to stop or reverse any decision concerning the Seals’ Tridents, according to Eugene R Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School.

“The president is the commander in chief; he could give orders about how to peel the potatoes in the chow hall if he wanted,” Mr Fidell said. “The question is, should he?”

The New York Times

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