Trump championing Eddie Gallagher hurt relationship with Pentagon – Business Insider

  • The war-crimes case of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher has left President Donald Trump in a fraught relationship with the Pentagon, according to a new report by The New York Times
  • Chief Petty Officer Gallagher has been at the center of a two-year affair that began with his September 2018 arrest over allegations he used a knife to execute a wounded teenage ISIS fighter in military custody and shot civilians while deployed to the Iraqi city of Mosul in early 2017. 
  • Despite the gory allegations, Trump has intervened several times in the case to fully back Gallagher against legal consequences and retribution from the Navy. 
  • Trump’s meddling has reportedly left lasting concerns within the Pentagon over his leadership. 
  • Gallagher was eventually acquitted of the charges in a military trial after another person present flipped their story on the stand, despite multiple accounts suggesting Gallagher carried out the killing.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.

The war-crimes case of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher has left President Donald Trump in a fraught relationship with the Pentagon as some feel he overstepped his bounds by meddling in the case, according to a new report by The New York Times

Chief Petty Officer Gallagher has been at the center of a two-year affair that began with his September 2018 arrest over allegations he used a knife to execute a wounded teenage ISIS fighter in military custody and shot civilians while deployed to the Iraqi city of Mosul in early 2017. 

Six fellow SEALs reported Gallagher before he was arrested, and several would provide shocking details of allegations about Gallagher’s behavior while deployed related to obstruction of justice and possession of controlled substances. 

Prosecutors also alleged he wrongfully took the opioid Tramadol and warned fellow SEALs against detailing his actions in Iraq to investigators. 

In addition to the charges laid out in 2018, the Times describes several alarming communications by Gallagher in which he sought out the bloodiest possible opportunities. 

“We don’t care about living conditions,” he reportedly texted a SEAL master chief who was making assignments. “We just want to kill as many people as possible.”

The Times reported that Gallagher commissioned a custom hunting knife and a hatchet from a friend, and wrote in a text that he would “try and dig that knife or hatchet on someone’s skull!”

Several SEALs have testified that officer in charge, Lt. Jacob Portier, gathered the platoon for “trophy photos” with the corpse of the captive before holding a re-enlistment ceremony for Gallagher over the body. 

He later texted a friend a photo of himself holding the captive by the hair alongside his hunting knife, adding there was a “good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.” 

By the end of his deployment, the Times reports that some SEALs had taken to privately calling Gallagher “el diablo,” or the devil.

Trump faced off against the Navy with support from Fox News

FILE - In this July 25, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump reviews the troops during a full honors welcoming ceremony for Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the Pentagon in Washington. If there was one day that crystallized all the forces that led to the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, it was July 25. That was the day of his phone call with Ukraine’s new leader, pressing him for a political favor.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

FILE – In this July 25, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump reviews the troops during a full honors welcoming ceremony for Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the Pentagon in Washington. If there was one day that crystallized all the forces that led to the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, it was July 25. That was the day of his phone call with Ukraine’s new leader, pressing him for a political favor. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Associated Press


Despite the gory allegations, Trump has intervened several times in the case to fully back Gallagher against legal consequences and retribution from the Navy, sometimes in accordance with conservative media figures and Republican lawmakers who railed against the process by which officers examined Gallagher. 

Throughout the process, Trump ordered Gallagher would be moved to less restrictive confinement and stripped prosecutors of the Navy Achievement Medals they received for their work on Gallagher’s case. Trump eventually said he would grant Gallagher clemency and ensure his rank be restored.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer wrote in a November letter to the White House that Trump was conducting “a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low-level review.”

“It was also a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices,” Spencer wrote. 

Chris Shumake, a former sniper who served in Gallagher’s platoon, told the Times that Trump’s meddling has cast a bad shadow across the SEAL teams. 

“It’s blown up bigger than any of us could have ever expected, and turned into a national clown show that put a bad light on the teams,” Shumake told the Times. “He’s trying to show he has the troops’ backs, but he’s saying he doesn’t trust any of the troops or their leaders to make the right decisions.”

Despite concerns within the military community, the Times notes that Trump’s unwavering support for Gallagher was notably echoed by conservative media, including “Fox & Friends” weekend host Pete Hegseth who loudly defended Gallagher almost solely based on his involvement in the military. 

“These are men who went into the most dangerous places on earth with a job to defend us and made tough calls on a moment’s notice,” Mr. Hegseth said in May. “They’re not war criminals, they’re warriors, who have now been accused of certain things that are under review.”

The case grew more entangled with drama within the Pentagon after Defense Secretary Mark Esper asked for Spencer’s resignation after learning that Spencer had privately proposed to White House officials that if they allowed the Navy to review Gallagher’s status, it would ensure Spencer would retire as a Navy SEAL.

Gallagher was eventually acquitted of the charges against him in a military trial after another person present flipped their story on the stand, despite multiple accounts suggesting Gallagher carried out the killing.

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