Trump's Intervention in SEAL Case Tests Pentagon's Tolerance
For those of you who, like me, haven't been following the SEAL Gallager case very closely, here is a NYTimes article summarizing all the ins and outs of the mess in which Trump intruded his portly self.
Clearly shows that Trump's Cabinet of senior advisors consists primarily of FOX News talk hosts.
". . . the captive was a scraggly teenager in a tank top with limbs so thin that his watch slid easily off his wrist.
Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher and other Navy SEALs gave the young captive medical aid that day in Iraq in 2017, sedating him and cutting an airway in his throat to help him breathe. Then, without warning, according to colleagues, Gallagher pulled a small hunting knife from a sheath and stabbed the sedated captive in the neck.
The same Gallagher who later posed for a photograph holding the dead captive up by the hair has now been celebrated on the campaign trail by President Donald Trump, who upended the military code of justice to protect him from the punishment resulting from the episode. Prodded by Fox News, Trump has been trumpeting him as an argument for his reelection.
[. . .]
The case of the president and a commando accused of war crimes offers a lesson in how Trump presides over the armed forces three years after taking office. While he boasts of supporting the military, he has come to distrust the generals and admirals who run it. Rather than accept information from his own government, he responds to television reports that grab his interest. Warned against crossing lines, he bulldozes past precedent and norms.
As a result, the president finds himself more removed than ever from a disenchanted military command, adding the armed forces to the institutions under his authority that he has feuded with, along with the intelligence community, law enforcement agencies and diplomatic corps.
[. . .]
‘Got Him With My Hunting Knife’
When the captive was killed, other SEALs were shocked. A medic inches from Gallagher testified that he froze, unsure what to do. Some SEALs said in interviews that the stabbing immediately struck them as wrong, but because it was Gallagher, the most experienced commando in the group, no one knew how to react. When senior platoon members confronted Gallagher, they said, he told them, “Stop worrying about it; they do a lot worse to us.”
The officer in charge, Lt. Jacob Portier, who was in his first command, gathered everyone for trophy photos, then held a re-enlistment ceremony for Gallagher over the corpse, several SEALs testified.
A week later, Gallagher sent a friend in California a text with a photo of himself with a knife in one hand, holding the captive up by the hair with the other. “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife,” he wrote.
As the deployment wore on, SEALs said the chief’s behavior grew more erratic. He led a small team beyond the front lines, telling members to turn off locator beacons so they would not be caught by superiors, according to four SEALS, who confirmed video of the mission obtained by The New York Times. He then tried to cover up the mission when one platoon member was shot.
At various points, he appeared to be either amped up or zoned out; several SEALs told investigators they saw him taking pills, including the narcotic Tramadol. He spent much of his time scanning the streets of Mosul from hidden sniper nests, firing three or four times as often as the platoon’s snipers, sometimes targeting civilians.
[. . .]
After the deployment, Portier was charged with not reporting the chief for war crimes but charges were dropped. SEALS said they started firing warning shots to keep pedestrians out of range. One SEAL told investigators he tried to damage the chief’s rifle to make it less accurate.
By the end of the deployment, SEALs said, Gallagher was largely isolated from the rest of the platoon, with some privately calling him “el diablo,” the devil.
A Fox Contributor’s Cause
Gallagher was reported by six fellow SEALs and arrested in September 2017, charged with nearly a dozen counts including murder and locked in the brig in San Diego to await his trial. He denied the charges and called those reporting him liars who could not meet his high standards, referring to them repeatedly in public as “the mean girls” and saying they sought to get rid of him.
[. . .]
Gallagher’s case was already simmering on the conservative talk show circuit when another service member, Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret, was charged last winter with killing an unarmed man linked to the Taliban in Afghanistan. On Dec. 16, barely minutes after a segment on “Fox & Friends,” Trump took to Twitter to say he would review the case, repeating language from the segment.
In the tweet, Trump included the handle of [Pete Hegseth, a weekend host of “Fox & Friends” who has promoted Gallagher to the president both on the telephone and on air]. . . .
Upset at what he sees as “Monday morning quarterbacking” of soldiers fighting a shadowy enemy where “second-guessing was deadly,” Hegseth has for years defended troops charged with war crimes, including Gallagher, Golsteyn and Lt. Clint Lorance, often appealing directly to the president on Fox News.
[. . .]
Hegseth found a ready ally in Trump, a graduate of a military high school who avoided serving in Vietnam as a young man citing bone spurs in his foot. Trump has long sought to identify himself with the toughest of soldiers and loves boasting of battlefield exploits to the point that he made up details of an account of a “whimpering” Islamic State leader killed in October.
In March, the president twice called Richard Spencer, the Navy secretary, asking him to release Gallagher from pretrial confinement in a Navy brig, Spencer later wrote in The Washington Post. After Spencer pushed back, Trump made it an order.
[. . .]
In June, Gallagher appeared before a military jury of five Marines and two sailors in a two-week trial marred by accusations of prosecutorial misconduct. The medic who had been inches away from Gallagher changed his story on the stand, claiming that he was the one who killed the captive.
In early July, the jury acquitted Gallagher on all charges but one: posing for a trophy photo with a corpse. He was sentenced to the maximum four months in prison and demoted. . . .
The President Intervenes
In the months afterward, Gallagher was feted on conservative talk shows. Hegseth spoke privately with Trump about the case.
[. . .]
The much-investigated president saw shades of himself in the case — Gallagher’s lawyers accused prosecutors of improprieties, a claim that advisers said resonated with Trump.
Spencer tried to head off further intervention. On Nov. 14, the Navy secretary sent a note to the president asking him not to get involved again. But Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, called to say Trump would order Gallagher’s punishment reversed and his rank restored. In addition, he pardoned Golsteyn and Lorance.
“This was a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low-level review,” Spencer wrote. “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 threatened to resign. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy also weighed in, arguing that the country’s standards of military justice protected American troops by setting those troops up as a standard around the world.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper took the complaints to the president. The Pentagon also sent an information packet to the White House describing the cases, including a primer on why there is a Uniform Code of Military Justice. Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the president it was important to allow the process to go forward.
[. . . ]
The Navy Secretary Fights and Loses
The admiral wanted to take Gallagher’s Trident pin, casting him out of the force. He called both Spencer and the chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, and said he understood the potential backlash from the White House, but in nearly all cases SEALs with criminal convictions had their Tridents taken.
Both Spencer and Gilday agreed the decision was his to make and said they would defend his call. . . .
But a day later, an hour after the chief’s lawyer blasted the decision on Fox News, the president stepped in again. “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”
Three days later, Spencer was fired, faulted by Esper for not telling him about an effort to work out a deal with the White House to allow the Navy process to go forward.
In an interview with Hegseth this past week, Gallagher thanked Trump for having his back. . . ."
I know that is a somewhat long excerpt, but the case is complicated--even more details can be found at that link (above).
What is clear, however, is how much Trump is influenced by FOX News and the type of guests included on its talk shows, especially creeps like Eddie Gallagher and Pete Hegseth.
After all, why would anyone take the word of a number of admirals and colleagues over that of a SEAL killer and the week-end host of FOX and Friends?