Trump orders Navy to rescind awards given to prosecutors who lost case against Eddie Gallagher

news

President Donald Trump

(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

President Donald Trump is ordering the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations to rescind awards given to prosecutors who were "ridiculously" awarded Navy Achievement Medals after losing the case against former SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher, he said in a tweet on Wednesday.


"Not only did they lose the case, they had difficulty with respect to information that may have been obtained from opposing lawyers and for giving immunity in a totally incompetent fashion," Trump tweeted one day after Task & Purpose first reported prosecutors had received the awards in a July 10 ceremony.

"I have directed the Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer & Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson to immediately withdraw and rescind the awards," Trump continued. "I am very happy for Eddie Gallagher and his family!"

A Navy official confirmed to Task & Purpose on Wednesday that Spencer would be rescinding the awards.

Earlier this month, the Navy's Region Legal Service Office in San Diego hosted an award ceremony in one of its courtrooms for four attorneys and four legal support staffers involved in the Gallagher case, according to a motion filed in a companion case on July 19 by military attorneys representing Navy SEAL Lt. Jacob Portier, Gallagher's former platoon commander.

The prosecution team all received Navy Achievement Medals, which "commended the trial teams' 'exceptional witness preparation,' 'expert litigation on constitutional issues,' and 'superb results,'" the motion said, apparently quoting from the award citations.

The motion also claimed that the RLSO Chief of Staff said words to the effect of "no matter the result, we were right to prosecute [Gallagher]," and "justice was done."

Lt. Scott McDonald, according to his award citation, assumed the role of lead trial counsel in the Gallagher case just one month before trial, and "immediately litigated multiple motions alleging constitutional violations," while reviewing many pages of discovery and multiple hours of video over a two-week period. "At trial, he brilliantly cross-examined defense witnesses and expertly delivered the government's case in rebuttal."

Also receiving an award was Lt. Brian John, whose citation said he "took the lead in preparing the government's most challenging witnesses," and "due to an unforeseen personnel change, he fleet up to lead counsel on the eve of trial and demonstrated remarkable resiliency and grit through a three-week contested proceeding."

The most junior member of the prosecution team, Lt. George Hageman, was similarly commended for providing "exceptional pretrial litigation support," drafting "responses to multiple complex defense motions relating to search and seizure issues and potential discovery violations." The citation also noted that, "in the courtroom, he adeptly laid evidentiary foundations and assisted in the development of cross-examinations for several defense witnesses."

A fourth attorney, whose name was redacted in the citations, "demonstrated brilliant legal acumen while providing exceptional pretrial litigation support," the award read, adding that she "took the lead in coordinating and preparing the government's experts, and spent countless hours and weekends preparing fact and expert witnesses. Her mastery of discovery also provided crucial continuity when key members of the trial team turned over on the eve of trial."

In the July 19 filing, defense attorneys zeroed in on the attendance at the ceremony of Capt. Aaron Rugh — the judge in the Gallagher case — as evidence he may be biased against Portier, who has been charged with failing to properly report the war crimes allegations against Gallagher up the chain of command.

Rugh is also the judge in the Portier case, which goes to trial on Sept. 3, a Navy official told Task & Purpose on Monday.

Defense attorneys argued that the appearance of Rugh at the ceremony call "his impartiality into question" since he was at an event where only the prosecutors in the Gallagher case were commended.

Gallagher, 40, was tried on charges of premeditated murder over an alleged stabbing of a wounded ISIS fighter in Mosul, and attempted premeditated murder relating to alleged sniper shots taken at an unarmed elderly man and a young girl. He was also charged with obstruction and wrongfully posing for an unofficial photo with a human casualty.

Cleared of the most serious charges on July 3, the chief was found guilty on the single photo charge, which got him a sentence of four months' confinement and reduction in rank to E6.

Gallagher has since been reduced in rank to Special Warfare Operator 1st Class, according to a source familiar with the matter, though his final sentence has not yet been approved by the convening authority.

"Highlights from SOC Gallagher's court martial included an egregious breach of the Defense's attorney-client privilege, significant Constitutional violations, and a surprise revelation by a government witness who apparently confessed to murder," the motion stated, referencing both the bungled spying operation by the government to find the source of media leaks that resulted in the removal of the lead prosecutor, Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak, and the shocking testimony of SO1 Corey Scott, who said that he, not Gallagher, killed the ISIS fighter by covering his breathing tube.

A demonstrator stands outside a security zone before a pro-gun rally, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Thousands of pro-gun supporters are expected at the rally to oppose gun control legislation like universal background checks that are being pushed by the newly elected Democratic legislature. (Associated Press/Julio Cortez)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Editor's Note: A version of this article originally appeared on the blog of Angry Staff Officer

This morning, the Virginia state capitol in Richmond saw dozens of armed men gathering to demonstrate their support for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution – the right to bear arms. These men were not merely bearing arms, however; they were fully accoutered in the trappings of what one would call a paramilitary group: helmets, vests, ammunition pouches, camouflage clothing, and other "tactical" necessities, the majority of which are neither tactical nor necessary. Their weapons, too, are bedecked with all sorts of accessories, and are also in the paramilitary lane. Rather than carry rifles or shotguns that one would use for hunting, they instead carry semi-automatic "military grade" weapons, to merely prove that they can.

This is not an uncommon sight in America. Nor has it ever been. Armed groups of angry men have a long and uncomfortable history in the United States. On very rare occasions, these irregulars have done some good against corrupt, power-hungry, and abusive county governments. For the most part, however, they bode no good.

Read More
A U.S. Soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) runs for cover during a live fire exercise at the 7th Army Training Command, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. (U.S. Army/Gertrud Zach)

A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.

Read More
Comedian and activist Jon Stewart meets with members of Toxic Exposures in the American Military (TEAM), a coalition of veteran and military service organizations, Jan. 17 on Capitol Hill. (Courtesy of TEAM)

Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.

"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."

Read More
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) transits the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 12, 2018. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)

The Navy plans on naming its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after World War II hero Doris 'Dorie' Miller, an African-American sailor recognized for his heroism during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor — and not everybody is happy about it.

Read More
Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe (Photo illustration by Aaron Provost)

Editor's note: A version of this article first appeared in 2018

Three. That's how many times Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe entered the burning carcass of his Bradley Fighting Vehicle after it struck an improvised explosive device in the Iraqi province of Salahuddin on Oct. 17, 2005. Cashe, a 35-year-old Gulf War vet on his second combat deployment to Iraq since the 2003 invasion, had been in the gun turret when the IED went off below the vehicle, immediately killing the squad's translator and rupturing the fuel cell. By the time the Bradley rolled to a stop, it was fully engulfed in flames. The crackle of incoming gunfire followed. It was a complex ambush.

Read More