WASHINGTON – President Trump intervened again on Tuesday on behalf of a Navy SEAL accused but acquitted of war crimes following the death of a prisoner of the Islamic State in Iraq, ordering the army to punish prosecutors who first place tried.
Mr. Trump angrily lured the Navy for awarding accolades to prosecutors in the assassination process of Edward Gallagher, a former chief of special operations, and publicly instructing Pentagon officials to deprive them of the medals. His announcement was a remarkable rebuke by a president of his own naval leadership.
“The prosecutors who lost the case against SEAL Eddie Gallagher (whom I had released from solitary confinement so that he could fight his case well), got ridiculously given a Navy Achievement Medal,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “They not only lost the case, they also had problems with information that might have been obtained from opposing lawyers and for giving immunity in a completely incompetent manner.”
He added: “I have instructed the Navy Secretary Richard Spencer & Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson to immediately withdraw and cancel the awards. I am very happy for Eddie Gallagher and his family! “
The Prosecutors who lost the case against SEAL Eddie Gallagher (who I released from solitary confinement so he could fight his case properly), were ridiculously given a Navy Achievement Medal. Not only did they lose the case, they had difficulty with respect….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 31 Temmuz 2019
The case of Chief Gallagher had become a cause among Republican legislators and conservative news media, and eventually caught the attention of Mr. Trump, who spoke on his behalf. In March, the president said he would order the transfer to less restrictive detention in honor of his service to his country.
Chief Gallagher was recruited by members of his own SEAL platoon, who accused him of repeatedly stabbing a trapped and wounded teenage hunter with an adapted hunting knife in 2017. He was also accused of obstructing justice from threatening to threaten it. killing the SEALs that indicated him.
In a court martial this month, he was found not guilty of first-degree murder at the prisoner’s death and was also acquitted of allegations that he had shot at unarmed civilians who were not a threat, including an old man and a schoolgirl. Chief Gallagher denied the allegations and his defense team said his prosecutors resented his leadership style.
Chief Gallagher was convicted of just a single charge related to posing for photos with the teenager’s body in captivity. He was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment and a lower rank, first-class special operator.
The prosecutor was disturbed long before the verdict. The chief prosecutor was removed from the case after he was caught adding tracking software to email messages sent to lawyers. Then another STAMP who received immunity surprised the prosecutors by testifying from the standpoint that he was the one who had killed the prisoner.
Nevertheless, on July 10, the Navy organized an award ceremony for four lawyers who worked on the case, as well as four legal support staff, all of whom received Navy Achievement Medals according to their mission and purpose, an online news site aimed at the military and veterans. The San Diego Legal Office claimed that it was right to prosecute Chief Gallagher.
Other presidents are dissatisfied with military prosecutors, but experts have not been able to remember another instance lately when a commander-in-chief intervened so directly in a case like this. In other administrations, they said, objections to medals would usually be made privately and resolved out of sight of the public.
“What makes this unusual is the President’s decision to do it on Twitter, making it a very public reprimand for all involved,” said Peter D. Feaver, a specialist in civil-military relations at Duke University and former National Security Assistance to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“Of course, the president as commander-in-chief has the right to give his reprimand as he pleases,” Feaver added, “but the approach President Trump has chosen seems to ignite the issue rather than calm it down.”