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Report: Navy secretary sides with admiral on Gallagher review: 'I believe the process matters'

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer answers questions during a House Committee on Armed Services hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, 2018.

CARLOS BONGIOANNI/STARS AND STRIPES

By ANDREW DYER | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: November 22, 2019

SAN DIEGO (Tribune News Service) — Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said Friday that Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher should face a planned “trident review board,” despite President Donald Trump’s tweet Thursday that Gallagher should remain a SEAL.

Spencer told Reuters at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, he supports the hearing into whether Gallagher can keep his trident, a symbol of the SEALs, in light of Gallagher’s conviction at a general court-martial in San Diego in July.

“I believe the process matters for good order and discipline,” Spencer said.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Spencer and the admiral in charge of the SEALs, Rear Adm. Collin Green, have threatened to resign or be fired if plans to expel Gallagher from the organization are halted.

Spencer, responding to a question Saturday at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, denied threatening to resign.

The decision to review the SEAL qualifications of four service members connected to Gallagher’s war crimes case by Green, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, was made with the support of Navy leadership, including the chief of naval operations, Adm. Mike Gilday.

Gallagher’s legal team said the decision to hold board reviews was a challenge to Trump’s authority as commander in chief.

Trump has intervened several times on Gallagher’s behalf. On Thursday, about an hour after one of Gallagher’s lawyers appeared on ‘Fox & Friends’ decrying the review board, Trump took to Twitter to express his disapproval.

“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 Chief of Information, Rear Adm. Charlie Brown, said Thursday the Navy was waiting for Trump to issue more specific orders before officially canceling the review.

“The Navy follows the lawful orders of the President,” Brown said in a statement.

“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.”

A senior Navy official said late Thursday that, in fact, all the review boards have been halted pending further guidance from Trump.

Gallagher was charged with killing a wounded Islamic State captive and shooting civilians during his time in Iraq in 2017. At the end of his court-martial, a jury acquitted him of the most serious allegations and convicted him of the offense of posing for photos with the body of the deceased fighter.

A military jury sentenced Gallagher to four months’ confinement, which he served before trial, and reduced his rank to petty officer 1st class, or E-6.

On Nov. 15, President Donald Trump restored Gallagher’s rank to E-7, or chief petty officer. The same day, Trump pardoned two Army service members accused of war crimes. His action on Gallagher’s behalf was not a pardon or an exoneration.

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