Defying Trump, Navy Secretary backs effort to revoke tridents from Eddie Gallagher and other SEALs

popular

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said on Friday a Navy SEAL convicted of battlefield misconduct should face a board of peers weighing whether to oust him from the elite force, despite President Donald Trump's assertion that he not be expelled.

"I believe the process matters for good order and discipline," Spencer told Reuters, weighing in on a confrontation between Trump and senior Navy officials over the outcome of a high-profile war-crimes case.

A military jury in July convicted Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of illegally posing for pictures with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter but acquitted him of murder in the detainee's death. Gallagher also was cleared of charges that he deliberately fired on unarmed civilians.


Although spared a prison sentence, he was demoted in rank and pay grade for his conviction, which stemmed from a 2017 deployment in Iraq.

Last Friday, Trump intervened in the case, ordering the Navy to restore Gallagher's rank and pay and clearing the way for him to retire on a full pension.

But Navy brass notified Gallagher, 40, on Tuesday that a five-member panel of fellow Navy commandos would convene on Dec. 2 to review his case and recommend whether he is fit to remain in the SEALs.

A decision as to whether Gallagher is ejected from the SEALs, stripping him of his special warfare Trident Pin, ultimately rests with the Navy's personnel command in Washington. Gallagher would retain his rank but be assigned to other duty, though his lawyer has said he will be eligible to retire soon.

On Thursday, Trump lashed out at the proceedings, declaring on Twitter: "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 responded with a statement saying it would follow "lawful orders" from the president to halt the review but was awaiting further guidance, suggesting his Twitter post was not considered a formal directive.

'THAT'S MY JOB'

Asked whether he believed the proceedings against Gallagher should continue, Spencer, in an interview at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, said, "Yes, I do."

"I think we have a process in place, which we're going forward with, and that's my job," he added.

It was not immediately clear how the showdown between Trump and Navy leaders might affect separate trident review board proceedings convened for three of Gallagher's commanding officers.

Critics have said Trump's grants of clemency last week to Gallagher, and to two Army officers separately accused of war crimes in Afghanistan, will undermine military justice and send a message that battlefield atrocities will be tolerated.

The trident review hearings for Gallagher and his immediate superiors were ordered by the commander of Naval Special Warfare, Rear Admiral Collin Green.

Gallagher's lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, contested the Navy's move to oust his client in a complaint filed on Monday with the Defense Department's inspector general, accusing Green of challenging Trump's authority as commander in chief.

Spencer acknowledged that Trump has the power to restore Gallagher's SEAL status if Navy commanders decide to expel him, saying, "The commander in chief is the commander in chief ... and he can do what he wants."

(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Halifax; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Culver City, Calif.; Editing by Sandra Maler, David Gregorio and Cynthia Osterman)

Two Air Force pararescue Airmen were awarded the Silver Star Medal on Friday for saving dozens of lives during separate Afghan battles in 2018 and 2019.

Tech Sgt. Gavin Fisher and Staff Sgt. Daniel Swensen both received the third highest military award for their bravery. Fisher also received the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat.

Read More Show Less
Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews the honor guards of the Chinese People's Liberation (PLA) Navy before boarding the destroyer Xining for the naval parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in Qingdao, Shandong province, China April 23, 2019. Xinhua via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government covertly moved to expel two officials from the Chinese embassy earlier this year, after they drove onto a military base, the New York Times reported, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

The newspaper reported on Sunday that one of the two Chinese officials is believed to be an intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover.

The Chinese officials breached security at a base in Virginia this fall, and only stopped driving after fire trucks were used to block their path, the Times said.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

President Donald Trump is set to announce the withdrawal of roughly 4,000 US troops from Afghanistan as early as next week, NBC News reported on Saturday based on conversations with three current and former officials.

This would come as the US is engaged in ongoing, troubled peace talks with the Taliban. The talks resumed in early December after Trump abruptly scrapped negotiations with the Taliban in September, only to be paused again this week after an attack near Bagram Airfield on Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
Photo: National Archives

Thomas Hoke can still recall the weather in December 1944, and the long days that followed.

The battle started on Dec. 16, but his company arrived Dec. 27 and would stay there until the battle's end, nearly a month later. By the time he arrived, snow had blanketed Germany in what was one of the biggest storms the country had seen in years.

"It was 20 below and a heavy fog encompassed the whole area," Hoke, 96, recalled from his Emmitsburg home.

The fog was to Germany's advantage because Allied aircraft were grounded, including recognizance flights, allowing the Nazis to slip in.

Read More Show Less

West Point is investigating a hand gesture made by several cadets and midshipmen during an ESPN pre-game broadcast at the Army-Navy game Saturday after clips of the signals went viral because of their association with white power.

"West Point is looking into the matter," a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "At this time we do not know the intent of the cadets."

Read More Show Less