Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher will retire as a chief petty officer now that President Donald Trump has restored his rank.
“Before the prosecution of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher, he had been selected for promotion to Senior Chief, awarded a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor, and assigned to an important position in the Navy as an instructor,” a White House statement said.
“Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified.”
The announcement that Gallagher is once again an E-7 effectively nullifies the Navy's entire effort to prosecute Gallagher for allegedly committing war crimes. It is also the culmination of Trump's support for the SEAL throughout the legal process.
On July 2, military jurors found Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death and opening fire at an old man and a young girl on separate occasions during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.
He was found guilty of posing for a picture with the ISIS fighter's corpse and sentenced to be reduced one rank to first class petty officer. On Oct. 29, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday upheld Gallagher's sentence while allowing him to retire as a first class petty officer instead of automatically being demoted to E-1 in line with Navy regulations.
Gallagher was arrested on Sept. 11, 2018 while being treated for traumatic brain injuries at the Camp Pendleton Intrepid Spirit Center and then held in pretrial confinement at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Miramar, California.
In March, Trump tweeted that Gallagher would soon be moved to a less restrictive environment, prompting the Navy to release Gallagher from the brig. Gallagher A military judge decided in May to end Gallagher's pretrial restriction at Naval Medical Center San Diego.
Gallagher's legal team also included Trump's personal attorney Mark Mukasey and longtime Trump associate Bernard Kerik, the former police commissioner for New York City.
When Gallagher was acquitted for murder in July, Trump tweeted his congratulations to the SEAL, adding, “Glad I could help!”
“Here's what the president did: He actually gave me the opportunity to prepare a defense,” Gallagher's attorney Tim Parlatore told Task & Purpose at the time. “When he decided to release Eddie from the brig … it's such an important factor to being able to prepare a defense.”
But the president was not finished. Trump ordered top Navy officials to rescind Navy Achievement Medals that had been awarded to the prosecutors in the Gallagher case.
Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth, who has a close relationship with the president, announced on Nov. 4 that Trump would soon restore Gallagher's former rank and stop the Navy from taking away his SEAL trident. Hegseth also said the president would exonerate former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn.
Even without the president's assistance, the Navy's case against Gallagher collapsed on its own.
The Navy's lead prosecutor Cmdr. Chris Czaplak was removed from the case one month before trial after he sent an email with tracking software to defense attorneys and Navy Times editor Carl Prine without obtaining a warrant first.
Parlatore said on Friday that both the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps “utterly failed in their responsibilities” throughout the Gallagher case by not verifying witnesses' statements before the trial or asking Scott about the cause of the ISIS fighter's death before he testified.
“If your star witness is the closest person to observe the death, as a prosecutor you really should ask him: How did he die?” Parlatore said.
Gallagher never disputed that he posed for a photo with the dead ISIS fighter and he was willing to accept nonjudicial punishment as a consequence, his brother Sean told Task & Purpose on Friday.
“But a court-martial sentence that carries with it — depending on the state — a felony conviction and a reduction in rank and retirement and all of that stuff, that is the definition of cruel and unusual punishment,” Gallagher said in an interview before the president's announcement.
“For the president to intervene like this post-sentence … He is in essence giving Eddie and the family the dignity that they deserve,” Sean Gallagher continued.
Additionally, Trump pardoned 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who had been convicted of murder for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men, two of whom were killed, and ended the decade-long saga of Maj. Matthew Golsteyn by ordering a murder charge against the former Green Beret dismissed with a full pardon.