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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Gallagher, Edward (1979- )"

Confidential Videos Show Why Navy SEALs Reported Edward Gallagher

Producers Jessica Dimmock and Zackary Canepari

Combat video, text messages and confidential interviews with members of the Navy SEALs obtained by The New York Times reveal chilling details about the conduct of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a bona fide badass with a chest full of medals.

Trained as a medic, sniper and explosives expert, Gallagher was the consummate leader of Alpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7, part of the Navy’s elite commando force. But when his own men said he committed war crimes, it sent shock waves up the chain of command — reaching all the way to the commander in chief.

Gallagher’s case continues to roil the Navy even after his acquittal on the most severe charges, and the public debate on Fox News and Twitter has widened the rift between President Trump and some top military leaders.

What exactly happened in Iraq in 2017 that so alarmed Gallagher’s brothers in arms? And why has the case resonated with Trump and his political base?

On this episode of “The Weekly,” members of SEAL Team 7 tell Navy investigators that Gallagher was a reckless leader with a disturbing hunger for violence. They say they spent much of their time protecting Iraqi civilians from their battle-crazed chief instead of going after ISIS. And never-before-released video from the SEALs’ deployment shows Gallagher kneeling beside a defenseless ISIS captive moments before Gallagher plunged his knife into the prisoner’s neck.

[Join the conversation about @theweekly on Twitter and Instagram. #TheWeeklyNYT]


Westlake Legal Group 29theweekly-sandiego-dave-square320 Confidential Videos Show Why Navy SEALs Reported Edward Gallagher United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J The Weekly (TV Program) Spencer, Richard V navy seals Iraq Hulu.com Gallagher, Edward (1979- ) FX (TV Network) Defense Department

Dave Philipps is a national correspondent covering veterans and the military, and won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Since joining The Times in 2014, he has covered the military community from the ground up, focusing largely on the unintended consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thousands of pages of photos, transcripts and investigative reports, as well as videos from Iraq were used to report this episode of “The Weekly.” It features confidential Navy interviews with the SEALs, who had never spoken publicly outside Gallagher’s trial. One Navy source was particularly helpful, but gave Dave only a 24-hour window to obtain materials.

[The full episode will be available to Times subscribers in the U.S. on Monday, Feb. 3]

Updates on some of the people in this episode of “The Weekly.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 29theweekly-sandiego-edwardgallagher-where-articleLarge Confidential Videos Show Why Navy SEALs Reported Edward Gallagher United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J The Weekly (TV Program) Spencer, Richard V navy seals Iraq Hulu.com Gallagher, Edward (1979- ) FX (TV Network) Defense Department

Credit…John Gastaldo/ZUMA Wire

Edward Gallagher retired from the Navy with full honors on Nov. 30. He lives with his wife and family near the beach in Florida. The Navy recently returned items seized during the murder investigation, including a custom-made hatchet he took with him to Iraq.

Corey Scott, the SEAL medic who said he — not Gallagher — had killed the wounded ISIS captive, was medically retired from the Navy this fall for problems unrelated to the Gallagher investigation. He has reached out to other members of the platoon to talk. None have responded.

Pete Hegseth, a guest host on Fox & Friends on Fox News, continues to praise President Trump’s decision to intervene on Gallagher’s behalf. Hegseth has posted Twitter messages urging the president to pardon other service members convicted of war crimes.

  • After Gallagher’s acquittal for all but one relatively minor charge, his case set in motion a dispute between the Pentagon hierarchy committed to enforcing good order and discipline, and a president who has come to distrust the commanders running the military.


Senior Story Editors Dan Barry, Liz O. Baylen, and Liz Day
Director of Photography Boaz Freund
Video Editors David Herr and Pierre Takal
Associate Producers Brennan Cusack, Lora Moftah, and Valerie Schenkman

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Anguish and Anger From the Navy SEALS Who Turned In Edward Gallagher

[Watch a special Times documentary featuring combat video and confidential interviews with the Navy SEALs who accused their chief of war crimes, streaming on Hulu.]

The Navy SEALs showed up one by one, wearing hoodies and T-shirts instead of uniforms, to tell investigators what they had seen. Visibly nervous, they shifted in their chairs, rubbed their palms and pressed their fists against their foreheads. At times they stopped in midsentence and broke into tears.

“Sorry about this,” Special Operator First Class Craig Miller, one of the most experienced SEALs in the group, said as he looked sideways toward a blank wall, trying to hide that he was weeping. “It’s the first time — I’m really broken up about this.”

Video recordings of the interviews obtained by The New York Times, which have not been shown publicly before, were part of a trove of Navy investigative materials about the prosecution of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher on war crimes charges including murder.

They offer the first opportunity outside the courtroom to hear directly from the men of Alpha platoon, SEAL Team 7, whose blistering testimony about their platoon chief was dismissed by President Trump when he upended the military code of justice to protect Chief Gallagher from the punishment.

“The guy is freaking evil,” Special Operator Miller told investigators. “The guy was toxic,” Special Operator First Class Joshua Vriens, a sniper, said in a separate interview. “You could tell he was perfectly O.K. with killing anybody that was moving,” Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a medic in the platoon, told the investigators.

Such dire descriptions of Chief Gallagher, who had eight combat deployments and sometimes went by the nickname Blade, are in marked contrast to Mr. Trump’s portrayal of him at a recent political rally in Florida as one of “our great fighters.”

Though combat in Iraq barely fazed the SEALs, sitting down to tell Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents about what they had seen their platoon chief do during a 2017 deployment in Iraq was excruciating for them.

Not only did they have to relive wrenching events and describe grisly scenes, they had to break a powerful unwritten code of silence in the SEALs, one of the nation’s most elite commando forces.

The trove of materials also includes thousands of text messages the SEALs sent one another about the events and the prosecution of Chief Gallagher. Together with the dozens of hours of recorded interviews, they provide revealing insights into the men of the platoon, who have never spoken publicly about the case, and the leader they turned in.

Platoon members said they saw Chief Gallagher shoot civilians and fatally stab a wounded captive with a hunting knife. Chief Gallagher was acquitted by a military jury in July of all but a single relatively minor charge, and was cleared of all punishment in November by Mr. Trump.

Video from a SEAL’s helmet camera, included in the trove of materials, shows the barely conscious captive — a teenage Islamic State fighter so thin that his watch slid easily up and down his arm — being brought in to the platoon one day in May 2017. Then the helmet camera is shut off.

In the video interviews with investigators, three SEALs said they saw Chief Gallagher go on to stab the sedated captive for no reason, and then hold an impromptu re-enlistment ceremony over the body, as if it were a trophy.

“I was listening to it, and I was just thinking, like, this is the most disgraceful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Special Operator Miller, who has since been promoted to chief, told investigators.

Special Operator Miller said that when the platoon commander, Lt. Jacob Portier, told the SEALs to gather over the corpse for photos, he did not feel he could refuse. The photos, included in the evidence obtained by The Times, show Chief Gallagher, surrounded by other SEALs, clutching the dead captive’s hair; in one photo, he holds a custom-made hunting knife.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 27SEALS-trophy-articleLarge Anguish and Anger From the Navy SEALS Who Turned In Edward Gallagher War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity Vriens, Josh United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces Scott, Corey Portier, Jacob navy seals Naval Criminal Investigative Service Murders, Attempted Murders and Homicides Miller, Craig Gallagher, Edward (1979- ) Ethics and Official Misconduct Dille, Dylan

This photo, recovered from Chief Gallagher’s phone after the death of an Islamic State fighter, was included in an investigative report by the Navy.

“I think Eddie was proud of it, and that was, like, part of it for him,” Special Operator Miller told investigators.

Chief Gallagher’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said the video interviews were rife with inconsistencies and falsehoods that created “a clear road map to the acquittal.”

Since his arrest nearly a year ago, Chief Gallagher has insisted that the charges against him were concocted by six disgruntled SEALs in his platoon who could not meet his high standards and wanted to force him out.

“My first reaction to seeing the videos was surprise and disgust that they would make up blatant lies about me, but I quickly realized that they were scared that the truth would come out of how cowardly they acted on deployment,” Chief Gallagher said in a statement issued through his lawyer.

“I felt sorry for them that they thought it necessary to smear my name, but they never realized what the consequences of their lies would be. As upset as I was, the videos also gave me confidence because I knew that their lies would never hold up under real questioning and the jury would see through it. Their lies and N.C.I.S.’s refusal to ask hard questions or corroborate their stories strengthened my resolve to go to trial and clear my name.”

The video interviews and private group text conversations obtained by The Times do not reveal any coordinated deception among the SEALs in the chief’s platoon. Instead, they show men who were hesitant to come forward, but who urged one another to resist outside pressure and threats of violence, and to be honest.

“Tell the truth, don’t lie or embellish,” one sniper who is now in SEAL Team 6 told the others in a group text in 2017, when they first tried to report the chief. “That way, he can’t say that we slandered him in any way.”

When several SEALs in the group questioned what would come of reporting the chief to their commanders, another wrote: “That’s their decision. We just need to give them the truth.”

It is an unspoken rule among their teams that SEALs should not report other SEALs for misconduct. An internal investigation could close off choice assignments or end careers for the accusers as well as the accused. And anyone who reported concerns outside the tight-knit SEAL community risked being branded a traitor.

“In a perfect world, there would be no risk, but that is not where we are,” Rick Haas, a retired command master chief who served in the SEALs for 30 years, said in an interview with The Times. “The teams are now divided over this, like I’ve never seen happen before.”

In cramped interview rooms in San Diego, SEALs who spoke to Navy investigators painted a picture of a platoon driven to despair by a chief who seemed to care primarily about racking up kills. They described how their chief targeted women and children and boasted that “burqas were flying.”

Asked whether the chief had a bias against Middle Eastern people, Special Operator Scott replied, “I think he just wants to kill anybody he can.”

Some of the SEALs said they came to believe that the chief was purposefully exposing them to enemy fire to bait ISIS fighters into revealing their positions. They said the chief thought that casualties in the platoon would increase his chances for a Silver Star.

Special Operator Vriens told investigators he had wanted to confront the chief in Iraq but had worried that if he did, he would be cut from missions and no longer be present to protect other SEALs from the chief. As he spoke, he struggled to keep his composure.

“I can speak up, stand my ground,” he said in the interview. “He’s just going to do this to a new guy who he can manipulate. So I was like, I’m going to be his right-hand man, so — so no one else got hurt.”

He pressed his forehead into his fists and started to cry. Then he took several deep breaths, rubbed his hands together and tried to continue.

“So I worked for him and I kept my mouth shut,” he said.

The platoon members told investigators that they tried repeatedly to report what they saw, but that the chain of command above them was friendly toward Chief Gallagher and took no action. Finally, in April 2018, they went outside the SEALs to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Chief Gallagher was arrested a few months later.

The SEALs in the platoon were scattered to new assignments. They tried to keep tabs on the case, texting one another and commiserating over a series of setbacks, including accusations of prosecutorial misconduct, the removal of the lead prosecutor and reports that the judge overseeing the case was being investigated on suspicion of lying under oath.

“This stuff is frustrating to read and makes it seem like Eddie will possibly get away with murder (literally),” Special Operator First Class Dylan Dille texted the group. “Let’s not forget there are 7-12 of us in here who had the balls to tell the truth about what Eddie has done.”

He said he thought the case against Chief Gallagher was strong despite the procedural setbacks. “I am also convinced that we are gonna answer to a higher power someday, and everything happens for a reason,” wrote Special Operator Dille, who has since left the Navy. “Not compromising our integrity and keeping right on our side is all we can do.”

Video

transcript

‘The Weekly,’ Streaming Now on Hulu

Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher’s case continues to roil the Navy even after his acquittal on most charges after another SEAL surprised prosecutors on the stand. Watch Corey Scott’s interview and hear his testimony.

Corey Scott changed his story on the stand. What Corey Scott had told investigators multiple times beforehand is— “You say he stabbed him one time, multiple times?” “It was probably two or three times.” “O.K.” “Just like a stab about right here, just in a few times.” “Is there any possible way that what he was doing could be interpreted as for medical purposes, to help this guy.” “No.” “There was no way this was anything other than to attack and to kill this person.” “No.” “O.K.” “What did you do next?” “I stayed at the scene until the ISIS fighter asphyxiated.” The prosecutor sits down without having gotten any of the testimony he expected. And very quickly, the defense attorney stands up and starts asking— “You didn’t say that Chief Gallagher suffocated him, did you?” “No.” Well, if Eddie Gallagher didn’t kill that guy, who did? “Did Craig Miller suffocate him?” “No.” “Did you suffocate him?” “Yes.” [SCOFFS] “How?” “I held my thumb over his ET tube until he stopped breathing.” And there is just this heavy silence— “No further questions.” —because all of a sudden, you can’t get this guy for murder because someone else has just admitted to the killing.

Westlake Legal Group NYTW_SAN-DIEGO_SOCIAL-STILL-10-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600 Anguish and Anger From the Navy SEALS Who Turned In Edward Gallagher War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity Vriens, Josh United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces Scott, Corey Portier, Jacob navy seals Naval Criminal Investigative Service Murders, Attempted Murders and Homicides Miller, Craig Gallagher, Edward (1979- ) Ethics and Official Misconduct Dille, Dylan

Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher’s case continues to roil the Navy even after his acquittal on most charges after another SEAL surprised prosecutors on the stand. Watch Corey Scott’s interview and hear his testimony.

Seven members of the 22-person platoon testified at the trial that they saw the chief commit war crimes. Two men from the platoon testified that they did not see any evidence of crimes. Others refused to cooperate with prosecutors. Crucially, one SEAL who had accused the chief during the investigation — Special Operator Scott — changed his story on the witness stand, testifying that he and not Chief Gallagher had caused the captive’s death.

Three of the men who testified at the trial left the Navy afterward, and have been trying to keep a low profile while they build civilian lives. Others are still in the SEAL teams, in some cases working on classified assignments. Some fear that coming forward has hurt their chances at success in the SEALs, but none have reported any retaliation. All of them declined to comment for this article.

Since the trial, Chief Gallagher has repeatedly insulted them on social media and on Fox News, especially Craig Miller, whom the chief singled out for weeping while talking to investigators.

Chief Gallagher retired from the Navy with full honors at the end of November, and has announced that he was starting a SEAL-themed clothing line.

A few days after he retired, an Instagram account belonging to him and his wife posted a photo of a custom-made hatchet, forged by the same SEAL veteran who made the hunting knife he was accused of using to kill the captive. Before the deployment, Chief Gallagher had told the knife maker he hoped to “dig that knife or hatchet on someone’s skull!”

“Eddie finally got his stuff back from NCIS,” the post said, listing the hatchet among a “few of our favorite things now returned.”

Another item returned to him was a black-and-white Islamic State flag. On Saturday, Chief Gallagher presented Mr. Trump with a folded black-and-white cloth that other SEALs from the platoon said appeared to be the flag.

A post on the chief’s Instagram account said, “Finally got to thank the President and his amazing wife by giving them a little gift from Eddie’s deployment to Mosul.”

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Trump’s Intervention in SEALs Case Tests Pentagon’s Tolerance

Westlake Legal Group 30TRUMPMILITARY-trumpalt-facebookJumbo Trump’s Intervention in SEALs Case Tests Pentagon’s Tolerance War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United States Navy Trump, Donald J Spencer, Richard V navy seals Mosul (Iraq) Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Gallagher, Edward (1979- )

He was limp and dusty from an explosion, conscious but barely. A far cry from the fierce, masked Islamic State fighters who once seized vast swaths of Iraq and Syria, 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, Chief Gallagher pulled a small hunting knife from a sheath and stabbed the sedated captive in the neck.

The same Chief 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 Trump, who upended the military code of justice to protect him from the punishment resulting from the episode. Prodded by Fox News, Mr. Trump has made Chief Gallagher a cause célèbre, trumpeting him as an argument for his re-election.

The violent encounter in a faraway land opened a two-year affair that would pit a Pentagon hierarchy wedded to longstanding rules of combat and discipline against a commander in chief with no experience in uniform but a finely honed sense of grievance against authority. The highest ranks in the Navy insisted Chief Gallagher be held accountable. Mr. Trump overruled the chain of command and the secretary of the Navy was fired.

The case of the president and a commando accused of war crimes offers a lesson in how Mr. 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.

“We’re going to take care of our warriors and I will always stick up for our great fighters,” Mr. Trump told a rally in Florida as he depicted the military hierarchy as part of “the deep state” he vowed to dismantle. “People can sit there in air-conditioned offices and complain, but you know what? It doesn’t matter to me whatsoever.”

The president’s handling of the case has distressed active-duty and retired officers and the civilians who work closely with them. Mr. Trump’s intervention, they said, emboldens war criminals and erodes the order of a professional military.

“He’s interfering with the chain of command, which is trying to police its own ranks,” said Peter D. Feaver, a specialist on civilian-military relations at Duke University and former aide to President George W. Bush. “They’re trying to clean up their act and in the middle of it the president parachutes in — and not from information from his own commanders but from news talking heads who are clearly gaming the system.”

Chris Shumake, a former sniper who served in Chief Gallagher’s platoon, said in an interview that he was troubled by the impact the president’s intervention could have on the SEALs.

“It’s blown up bigger than any of us could have ever expected, and turned into a national clown show that put a bad light on the teams,” said Mr. Shumake, speaking publicly for the first time. “He’s trying to show he has the troops’ backs, but he’s saying he doesn’t trust any of the troops or their leaders to make the right decisions.”

Chief Gallagher, who has denied any wrongdoing, declined through his lawyer to be interviewed. Mr. Trump’s allies said the president was standing up to political correctness that hamstrings the warriors the nation asks to defend it, as if war should be fought according to lawyerly rules.

“From the beginning, this was overzealous prosecutors who were not giving the benefit of the doubt to the trigger-pullers,” Pete Hegseth, a weekend host of “Fox & Friends” who has promoted Chief Gallagher to the president both on the telephone and on air, said this past week. “That’s what the president saw.”

Chief Gallagher, 40, a seasoned operator with a deeply weathered face from eight combat deployments, sometimes went by the nickname Blade. He sought out the toughest assignments, where gunfire and blood were almost guaranteed. Months before deploying, he sent a text to the SEAL master chief making assignments, saying he was “down to go” to any spot, no matter how awful, so long as “there is for sure action and work to be done.”

“We don’t care about living conditions,” he added. “We just want to kill as many people as possible.”

Before deployment, he commissioned a friend and former SEAL to make him a custom hunting knife and a hatchet, vowing in a text, “I’ll try and dig that knife or hatchet on someone’s skull!”

He was in charge of 22 men in SEAL Team 7’s Alpha Platoon, which deployed to Mosul, Iraq, in early 2017. But his platoon was nowhere near the action, assigned an “advise and assist” mission supporting Iraqi commandos doing the block-by-block fighting. The SEALs were required to stay 1,000 meters behind the front lines.

That changed on May 6, 2017, when an Apache helicopter banked over a dusty patchwork of fields outside Mosul, fixed its sights on a farmhouse serving as an Islamic State command post and fired two Hellfire missiles reducing it to rubble.

Chief Gallagher saw the distant explosion from an armored gun truck. When he heard on the radio that Iraqi soldiers had captured an Islamic State fighter and took him to a nearby staging area, he raced to the scene. “No one touch him,” he radioed other SEALs. “He’s mine.”

When the captive was killed, other SEALs were shocked. A medic inches from Chief 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 Chief Gallagher, the most experienced commando in the group, no one knew how to react. When senior platoon members confronted Chief 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 Chief Gallagher over the corpse, several SEALs testified.

A week later, Chief 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.

One SEAL sniper told investigators he heard a shot from Chief Gallagher’s position, then saw a schoolgirl in a flower-print hijab crumple to the ground. Another sniper reported hearing a shot from Chief Gallagher’s position, then seeing a man carrying a water jug fall, a red blotch spreading on his back. Neither episode was investigated and the fate of the civilians remains unknown.

Chief Gallagher had been accused of misconduct before, including shooting through an Afghan girl to hit the man carrying her in 2010 and trying to run over a Navy police officer in 2014. But in both cases no wrongdoing was found.

SEALs said they reported concerns to Lieutenant Portier with no result. The lieutenant outranked Chief Gallagher but was younger and less experienced. SEALs said in interviews that the chief often yelled at his commanding officer or disregarded him altogether. After the deployment, Lieutenant Portier was charged with not reporting the chief for war crimes but charges were dropped. So 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, Chief Gallagher was largely isolated from the rest of the platoon, with some privately calling him “el diablo,” or the devil.

Chief 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.

David Shaw, a former SEAL who deployed with the platoon, said he saw no evidence of that. “All six were some of the best performers in the platoon,” he said, speaking publicly for the first time. “These were guys were hand-selected by the chief based on their skills and abilities, and they are guys of the highest character.”

Chief Gallagher’s case was already simmering on the conservative talk show circuit when another service member, Maj. Mathew L. 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,” Mr. Trump took to Twitter to say he would review the case, repeating language from the segment.

In the tweet, Mr. Trump included the handle of Mr. Hegseth, who speaks regularly with the president and has been considered for top jobs in the administration. An Army veteran, Mr. Hegseth served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading two conservative veterans organizations “committed to victory on the battlefield,” as the biography for his speaker’s bureau puts it.

Upset at what he sees as “Monday morning quarterbacking” of soldiers fighting a shadowy enemy where “second-guessing was deadly,” Mr. Hegseth has for years defended troops charged with war crimes, including Chief Gallagher, Major Golsteyn and Lt. Clint Lorance, often appealing directly to the president on Fox News.

“These are men who went into the most dangerous places on earth with a job to defend us and made tough calls on a moment’s notice,” Mr. Hegseth said on Fox in May. “They’re not war criminals, they’re warriors, who have now been accused of certain things that are under review.”

Mr. Hegseth found a ready ally in Mr. Trump, a graduate of a military high school who avoided serving in Vietnam by citing bone spurs in his foot. Mr. 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 V. Spencer, the Navy secretary, asking him to release Chief Gallagher from pretrial confinement in a Navy brig, Mr. Spencer later wrote in The Washington Post. After Mr. Spencer pushed back, Mr. Trump made it an order.

By May, Mr. Trump prepared to pardon both Chief Gallagher and Major Golsteyn for Memorial Day, even though neither had yet faced trial. At the Pentagon, a conservative bastion where Fox News is the network of choice on office televisions, senior officials were aghast. They persuaded Mr. Trump to hold off. But that was not the end of the matter.

In June, Chief 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 Chief Gallagher changed his story on the stand, claiming that he was the one who killed the captive.

In early July, the jury acquitted Chief 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. Having already been confined awaiting trial, he walked out of the courtroom a free man.

“Congratulations to Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, his wonderful wife Andrea, and his entire family,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “You have been through much together. Glad I could help!”

In the months afterward, Chief Gallagher was feted on conservative talk shows. Mr. Hegseth spoke privately with Mr. Trump about the case.

As it happened, the president shares a lawyer with Chief Gallagher — Marc Mukasey, a former prosecutor representing Mr. Trump in proceedings against his company. Mr. Mukasey said he never discussed Chief Gallagher with anyone in the administration. “I have been religious about keeping matters separate,” he said.

Another person with ties to Mr. Trump who worked on Chief Gallagher’s case was Bernard B. Kerik, a New York City police commissioner under former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is now the president’s personal lawyer. Like Mr. Hegseth, Mr. Kerik repeatedly appeared on Fox News pleading Chief Gallagher’s case.

The much-investigated president saw shades of himself in the case — Chief Gallagher’s lawyers accused prosecutors of improprieties, a claim that advisers said resonated with Mr. Trump.

Mr. 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 A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, called to say Mr. Trump would order Chief Gallagher’s punishment reversed and his rank restored. In addition, he pardoned Major Golsteyn and Lieutenant Lorance.

“This was a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low-level review,” Mr. 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.”

Mr. Spencer threatened to resign. The 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 T. 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. Mr. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the president it was important to allow the process to go forward.

Caught in the middle was Rear Adm. Collin Green, who took command of the SEALs four days before Chief Gallagher was arrested. He made it a priority to restore what he called “good order and discipline” after a series of scandals, tightening grooming standards and banning unofficial patches with pirate flags, skulls, heads on pikes and other grim symbols used to denote rogue cliques, similar to motorcycle gangs.

For Admiral Green, the Gallagher case posed a challenge because after his acquittal, the chief regularly undermined the SEAL command, appearing without authorization on Fox News and insulting the admiral and other superiors on social media as “a bunch of morons.”

The admiral wanted to take Chief Gallagher’s Trident pin, casting him out of the force. He called both Mr. 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 Mr. Spencer and Admiral Gilday agreed the decision was his to make and said they would defend his call. Mr. Esper briefed Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, on Nov. 19 and the next day the Navy established a review board of fellow enlisted SEALs to decide the question.

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,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”

Three days later, Mr. Spencer was fired, faulted by Mr. 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 Mr. Hegseth this past week, Chief Gallagher thanked Mr. Trump for having his back. “He keeps stepping in and doing the right thing,” the chief said. “I want to let him know the rest of the SEAL community is not about this right now. They all respect the president.”

Dave Philipps reported from Colorado Springs, Co., Peter Baker and Helene Cooper from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-military2-facebookJumbo Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Spencer, Richard V navy seals Gallagher, Edward (1979- ) Esper, Mark T Defense Department

WASHINGTON — President Trump ordered the Pentagon not to remove a Navy SEAL at the center of a high-profile war crimes case from the elite commando unit, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Monday.

Mr. Esper’s confirmation of the order from Mr. Trump is the latest turn in an extraordinary series of events that pitted the president against his senior military leadership over the fate of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the SEAL who was convicted of posing for photographs with the body of a teenage Islamic State captive in American custody.

The Navy wanted to oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit. Instead, it was the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, who was fired on Sunday. Mr. Esper accused Mr. Spencer of not telling him that he was negotiating a separate deal with the White House, which differed from what Mr. Spencer was saying publicly and to senior Defense Department leadership.

On Monday, Mr. Esper indicated that the military would follow Mr. Trump’s wishes.

“I spoke with the president on Sunday,” Mr. Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. “He gave me the order that Eddie Gallagher will retain his Trident pin.” The pin designates membership in the elite unit.

This was the second time Mr. Trump had made known his wishes that Chief Gallagher remain a Navy SEAL — the first was last Thursday, via Twitter. But Navy officials said over the weekend that they did not consider tweets to be orders and announced they were moving ahead with disciplinary hearings that could oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit.

Those hearings will not be happening now, Defense Department officials indicated.

Following this weekend’s rapid-fire developments in an already complicated story, some Pentagon officials remained torn on Monday deciding whose side of the story to believe, according to a Defense Department official.

Mr. Trump’s intervention into the military justice system and the Defense Department’s maneuvering to avoid confrontation with the White House had some in the building confused as to what actually happened regarding Mr. Spencer’s dismissal, the official added.

Chief Gallagher was accused of shooting civilians, murdering a captive Islamic State fighter with a hunting knife in Iraq and threatening to kill SEALs who reported him, among other misconduct.

His court-martial ended in acquittal on those charges, but he was convicted of one charge of bringing discredit to the armed forces by posing for photos with the teenage captive’s body.

The Navy demoted him, but Mr. Trump earlier this month reversed that demotion, angering Navy officials, including the commander of the SEALs, Rear Admiral Collin Green, and Mr. Spencer, the Navy secretary.

In a letter acknowledging his termination on Sunday, Mr. Spencer said that he regarded good order and discipline throughout the Navy’s ranks to be “deadly serious business.”

“The lives of our sailors, Marines and civilian teammates quite literally depend on the professional execution of our many missions, and they also depend on the ongoing faith and support of the people we serve and the allies we serve alongside,” the letter said.

He added: “Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the commander in chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took.”

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Who Is Edward Gallagher, the SEAL the Navy Wants to Expel?

The son of a West Point graduate and career Army officer, Edward Gallagher enlisted in the Navy as a medic in 1999 and deployed to Iraq attached to a Marine infantry unit. He became one of the few Navy medics ever to complete the Marines’ demanding scout sniper school. Now 40, he sometimes goes by the nickname Blade.

He graduated from the Navy’s punishing Basic Underwater Demolition course in 2005 and joined the SEALs, the most elite commando force in the Navy. Since then, he has deployed to combat zones with the SEALs five times, rising to become a special operations chief, as SEAL chief petty officers are known. Chief Gallagher was named the top platoon leader in SEAL Team 7 and has been awarded several Bronze Stars for valor in actions under fire in Iraq and Afghanistan. The chief came to be widely known among the SEALs as a battle-wise veteran.

Since his arrest last fall, his supporters, including conservative lawmakers and media outlets, have portrayed Chief Gallagher as a valiant SEAL who was being unfairly second-guessed and prosecuted over heat-of-the-moment decisions in a combat zone. But his critics, including some fellow SEALs, have said he had become a rogue operator and poor military role model, and had committed heinous acts of unnecessary violence.

SEALs from the platoon that Chief Gallagher led during a deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in 2017 told military officials that they saw the chief fatally stab a wounded ISIS captive. Navy investigators said while several SEALs were providing medical aid to the fighter, Chief Gallagher took out a handmade hunting knife and stabbed the captive, a teenager, several times in the neck and torso.

The chief was also accused of firing a sniper rifle at civilians, striking a girl wearing a flower-print hijab as she walked along a riverbank and an old man carrying a water jug. Several SEALs broke the group’s code of silence and testified against Chief Gallagher in a military trial.

The chief appeared before a military jury of five Marines and two sailors in a two-week trial that started in late June and was marred by accusations of prosecutorial misconduct and a witness who changed his story on the stand.

After deliberating for about two hours, the jury acquitted Chief Gallagher of murder, attempted murder and obstruction of justice charges. But the chief was convicted of one relatively minor charge — posing for inappropriate photos with the dead captive — and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, time he had already served before trial. The jury also ordered that the chief be demoted one rank to petty officer first class, a step that became a point of contention.

During the sentencing, Chief Gallagher told the jury he had put “a black eye” on the Marine Corps and the Navy. “I’ve made mistakes in my 20-year career — tactical, ethical, moral — I’m not perfect,” he said. “But I’ve always bounced back from my mistakes.”

During the war crimes investigation, officials uncovered evidence that Chief Gallagher had violated regulations in a number of ways. A live training grenade was found in his garage. Text messages were unearthed in which he talked about using marijuana and narcotics with other SEALs.

That behavior, along with his criminal conviction, has rankled the commander of the SEALs, Rear Adm. Collin Green, who has sought to rein in what some saw as years of lax discipline in the force. A sailor can be expelled from the SEALs if a commander loses “faith and confidence in the service member’s ability to exercise sound judgment, reliability and personal conduct.”

The Navy has expelled more than 150 sailors from the SEALs since 2011, stripping them of the right to wear the Trident pins that signify membership. Having the insignia taken away is a serious consequence: The dead take their comrades’ Trident pins with them to the grave.

Westlake Legal Group the-daily-album-art-articleInline-v2 Who Is Edward Gallagher, the SEAL the Navy Wants to Expel? War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J navy seals Green, Collin P Gallagher, Edward (1979- )

Listen to ‘The Daily’:What Should Happen to the Navy SEAL Chief?

A war-crimes investigation pitted the commander in chief against the military. How a presidential intervention resulted in a rare resignation — upending the Navy.

Mr. Trump has provided supportive messages for Chief Gallagher on Twitter, offering congratulations after the court-martial verdict and telling him and his family, “You have been through much together.” But Mr. Trump has been more than a cheerleader.

The president ordered less restrictive confinement for Chief Gallagher while he awaited trial; reversed his demotion and restored his rank to chief petty officer after the verdict; and last week, announced that he would prevent the Navy from kicking the chief out of the SEALs.

After Chief Gallagher had his rank restored this month, he thanked Mr. Trump on Instagram, writing, “I truly believe that we are blessed as a Nation to have a Commander-in-Chief that stands up for our warfighters.”

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Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-military2-facebookJumbo Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Spencer, Richard V navy seals Gallagher, Edward (1979- ) Esper, Mark T Defense Department

WASHINGTON — President Trump ordered the Pentagon not to remove a Navy SEAL at the center of a high-profile war crimes case from the elite commando unit, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Monday.

Mr. Esper’s confirmation of the order from Mr. Trump is the latest turn in an extraordinary series of events that pitted the president against his senior military leadership over the fate of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the SEAL who was convicted of posing for photographs with the body of a teenage Islamic State captive in American custody.

The Navy wanted to oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit. Instead, it was the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, who was fired on Sunday. Mr. Esper accused Mr. Spencer of not telling him that he was negotiating a separate deal with the White House, which differed from what Mr. Spencer was saying publicly and to senior Defense Department leadership.

On Monday, Mr. Esper indicated that the military would follow Mr. Trump’s wishes.

“I spoke with the president on Sunday,” Mr. Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. “He gave me the order that Eddie Gallagher will retain his Trident pin.” The pin designates membership in the elite unit.

This was the second time Mr. Trump had made known his wishes that Chief Gallagher remain a Navy SEAL — the first was last Thursday, via Twitter. But Navy officials said over the weekend that they did not consider tweets to be orders and announced they were moving ahead with disciplinary hearings that could oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit.

Those hearings will not be happening now, Defense Department officials indicated.

Following this weekend’s rapid-fire developments in an already complicated story, some Pentagon officials remained torn on Monday deciding whose side of the story to believe, according to a Defense Department official.

Mr. Trump’s intervention into the military justice system and the Defense Department’s maneuvering to avoid confrontation with the White House had some in the building confused as to what actually happened regarding Mr. Spencer’s dismissal, the official added.

Chief Gallagher was accused of shooting civilians, murdering a captive Islamic State fighter with a hunting knife in Iraq and threatening to kill SEALs who reported him, among other misconduct.

His court-martial ended in acquittal on those charges, but he was convicted of one charge of bringing discredit to the armed forces by posing for photos with the teenage captive’s body.

The Navy demoted him, but Mr. Trump earlier this month reversed that demotion, angering Navy officials, including the commander of the SEALs, Rear Admiral Collin Green, and Mr. Spencer, the Navy secretary.

In a letter acknowledging his termination on Sunday, Mr. Spencer said that he regarded good order and discipline throughout the Navy’s ranks to be “deadly serious business.”

“The lives of our sailors, Marines and civilian teammates quite literally depend on the professional execution of our many missions, and they also depend on the ongoing faith and support of the people we serve and the allies we serve alongside,” the letter said.

He added: “Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the commander in chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took.”

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Navy SEALs Case Reveals Broad Scope of a President’s Military Powers

Westlake Legal Group 22seals-01-facebookJumbo Navy SEALs Case Reveals Broad Scope of a President’s Military Powers United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Presidents and Presidency (US) navy seals Gallagher, Edward (1979- )

In an October White House photo, President Trump presented the military’s ultimate symbol of heroism, the Medal of Honor, to a dog. It was a joke, a doctored photo reposted on the president’s Twitter account. But even though the president didn’t actually award the Medal of Honor to a dog, legal scholars agree that as commander in chief of the military, he could have.

This week, Mr. Trump said he would reverse the decision of the commander of the Navy SEALs to remove a convicted sailor from its ranks. That reversal might not happen after pushback from top military officials, but its threat prompted many to ask what the limits are on the president’s authority to intervene in the military.

Military scholars say they are few.

He could, hypothetically, also order all the Air Force’s jets painted pink, appoint his chauffeur to an elite commando force or require all officers to wear long, red ties on Fridays.

“The president’s power is very broad; he can micromanage in nearly anything in the military, no matter how trivial,” said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School.

On Wednesday the Navy began a process to take the Trident pin of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, ousting him from the SEALs. Less than 24 hours later, the president said he would reverse the order in a message on Twitter, saying, “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 announcement caught the military off guard, sending commanders from Washington to California scrambling as the Navy searched for clarity.

The president absolutely had the power to do it, Mr. Fidell said. He even has the power to pick people off the street with no qualifications and make them SEALs, he added, though nepotism laws might prevent him from giving the title to family members.

Presidential power over the military runs deep and hits up against just two limits, he said: Congress and the Constitution.

A president cannot create policies that violate constitutional rights. For example, Mr. Fidell said, the president could not block anyone of a specific race or religion from becoming a SEAL because of equal protection and First Amendment rights. A case challenging the president’s decision to bar transgender recruits from joining the military is working its way through the courts.

A president also cannot order the military to do something that violates a law enacted by Congress, such as the law that repealed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which barred gay troops from serving openly in the military.

But those two constraints leave a broad thoroughfare, crowded with ships, fighter jets and nuclear weapons, where the president has considerable discretion.

“Think of the implications,” Mr. Fidell said. “I suppose it is possible he could tell the Navy who should be a pilot. And if the guy in charge didn’t like it, he could fire him.”

The president’s power over the military is no mistake. Founding fathers knew the executive would need broad authority in war. But the real boundaries of what a president can do as a commander in chief in the day-to-day operations of the armed forces have never been tested, experts say, because since the beginning of the republic the presidency has given the military broad deference in how it runs its affairs.

“The Constitution is a very brief document; it leaves a lot unsaid. So for centuries the president and the military have had to rely on mutual understanding,” said Thomas Bruneau, who taught national security at the Naval Postgraduate School. The president makes broad strategic and political decisions about military power, he said, and the military generally makes decisions on how those decisions will be executed, and by whom.

“This level of intervention at such a low level? I’ve never seen it,” Mr. Bruneau said.

To be sure, presidents have sometimes involved themselves in the minutiae of making war. President Lyndon B. Johnson, for example, personally approved targets for B-52 bombing runs in Operation Rolling Thunder, during the Vietnam War.

But by and large presidents have steered clear of retail personnel actions like the decision to bestow or remove the Trident pin, so the question of whether it is legal has rarely been asked.

“I suspect a lot of Navy lawyers are trying to figure that out themselves right now,” said Geoffrey Corn, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who teaches military law at South Texas College of Law.

Congress, he said, has some authority to enact statutes specifically limiting certain executive actions. For example, it could craft a law restricting the president’s authority to assign troops in certain specialized units like the SEALs or other special operations forces to qualified military commanders.

But, he said, Congress has been careful not to create too many restrictions, concerned it might impede the ability to act in times of national emergency.

“For a long time the system has worked. The military and the president don’t always agree but they have a trusting relationship,” Mr. Corn said. The decision to override a Navy admiral in Chief Gallagher’s case, he said, “sends a message that the president doesn’t trust his commanders, and could really corrode that longstanding relationship.”

He agreed that it was in the president’s legal authority to restore a SEAL’s trident. But he said it might be good for the president to heed advice he tells first-year law students: “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.”

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Navy SEALs Case Reveals Broad Scope of a President’s Military Powers

Westlake Legal Group 22seals-01-facebookJumbo Navy SEALs Case Reveals Broad Scope of a President’s Military Powers United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Presidents and Presidency (US) navy seals Gallagher, Edward (1979- )

In an October White House photo, President Trump presented the military’s ultimate symbol of heroism, the Medal of Honor, to a dog. It was a joke, a doctored photo reposted on the president’s Twitter account. But even though the president didn’t actually award the Medal of Honor to a dog, legal scholars agree that as commander in chief of the military, he could have.

This week, Mr. Trump said he would reverse the decision of the commander of the Navy SEALs to remove a convicted sailor from its ranks. That reversal might not happen after pushback from top military officials, but its threat prompted many to ask what the limits are on the president’s authority to intervene in the military.

Military scholars say they are few.

He could, hypothetically, also order all the Air Force’s jets painted pink, appoint his chauffeur to an elite commando force or require all officers to wear long, red ties on Fridays.

“The president’s power is very broad; he can micromanage in nearly anything in the military, no matter how trivial,” said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School.

On Wednesday the Navy began a process to take the Trident pin of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, ousting him from the SEALs. Less than 24 hours later, the president said he would reverse the order in a message on Twitter, saying, “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 announcement caught the military off guard, sending commanders from Washington to California scrambling as the Navy searched for clarity.

The president absolutely had the power to do it, Mr. Fidell said. He even has the power to pick people off the street with no qualifications and make them SEALs, he added, though nepotism laws might prevent him from giving the title to family members.

Presidential power over the military runs deep and hits up against just two limits, he said: Congress and the Constitution.

A president cannot create policies that violate constitutional rights. For example, Mr. Fidell said, the president could not block anyone of a specific race or religion from becoming a SEAL because of equal protection and First Amendment rights. A case challenging the president’s decision to bar transgender recruits from joining the military is working its way through the courts.

A president also cannot order the military to do something that violates a law enacted by Congress, such as the law that repealed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which barred gay troops from serving openly in the military.

But those two constraints leave a broad thoroughfare, crowded with ships, fighter jets and nuclear weapons, where the president has considerable discretion.

“Think of the implications,” Mr. Fidell said. “I suppose it is possible he could tell the Navy who should be a pilot. And if the guy in charge didn’t like it, he could fire him.”

The president’s power over the military is no mistake. Founding fathers knew the executive would need broad authority in war. But the real boundaries of what a president can do as a commander in chief in the day-to-day operations of the armed forces have never been tested, experts say, because since the beginning of the republic the presidency has given the military broad deference in how it runs its affairs.

“The Constitution is a very brief document; it leaves a lot unsaid. So for centuries the president and the military have had to rely on mutual understanding,” said Thomas Bruneau, who taught national security at the Naval Postgraduate School. The president makes broad strategic and political decisions about military power, he said, and the military generally makes decisions on how those decisions will be executed, and by whom.

“This level of intervention at such a low level? I’ve never seen it,” Mr. Bruneau said.

To be sure, presidents have sometimes involved themselves in the minutiae of making war. President Lyndon B. Johnson, for example, personally approved targets for B-52 bombing runs in Operation Rolling Thunder, during the Vietnam War.

But by and large presidents have steered clear of retail personnel actions like the decision to bestow or remove the Trident pin, so the question of whether it is legal has rarely been asked.

“I suspect a lot of Navy lawyers are trying to figure that out themselves right now,” said Geoffrey Corn, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who teaches military law at South Texas College of Law.

Congress, he said, has some authority to enact statutes specifically limiting certain executive actions. For example, it could craft a law restricting the president’s authority to assign troops in certain specialized units like the SEALs or other special operations forces to qualified military commanders.

But, he said, Congress has been careful not to create too many restrictions, concerned it might impede the ability to act in times of national emergency.

“For a long time the system has worked. The military and the president don’t always agree but they have a trusting relationship,” Mr. Corn said. The decision to override a Navy admiral in Chief Gallagher’s case, he said, “sends a message that the president doesn’t trust his commanders, and could really corrode that longstanding relationship.”

He agreed that it was in the president’s legal authority to restore a SEAL’s trident. But he said it might be good for the president to heed advice he tells first-year law students: “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.”

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Navy Is Said to Proceed With Disciplinary Plans Against Edward Gallagher

ImageWestlake Legal Group 23dcseal-image2-articleLarge Navy Is Said to Proceed With Disciplinary Plans Against Edward Gallagher War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Spencer, Richard V Gallagher, Edward (1979- )

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, right, and President Trump in July.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The secretary of the Navy and the admiral who leads the SEALs have threatened to resign or be fired if plans to expel a commando from the elite unit in a war crimes case are halted by President Trump, administration officials said Saturday.

The Navy is proceeding with the disciplinary plans against the commando, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who counts Mr. Trump as one of his most vocal supporters. After reversing a demotion in recent days, the president suggested on Thursday that he would intervene again in the case, saying that the sailor should remain in the unit.

The threats by the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, and the commander, Rear Adm. Collin Green, are a rare instance of pushback against Mr. Trump from members of the Defense Department. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, scrambled to come up with a face-saving compromise this past week in the hope that Mr. Trump could be persuaded to change his mind.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump, referring to the pin that signifies membership in an elite force, said on Twitter that “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin.” He added: “This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”

One argument that officials said may be relied on is the assumption that a tweet does not constitute a formal presidential order. Mr. Esper and General Milley conveyed to the president that if he followed up that tweet with a direct order, there would be huge consequences: Mr. Trump would lose Mr. Spencer and Admiral Green, further infuriate his top military leadership and do untold damage to decades of military justice doctrine, according to administration officials.

Administration officials said they now hoped that Mr. Trump would allow the proceedings to continue, but it is unclear whether the president will do so. The debate over Mr. Gallagher comes as Mr. Trump, facing a difficult re-election battle and an impeachment inquiry, has increasingly sought to highlight his role as commander in chief.

Chief Gallagher was accused of shooting civilians, murdering a captive Islamic State fighter with a hunting knife in Iraq, and threatening to kill SEALs who reported him, among other misconduct. His court-martial ended in acquittal on those charges.

But the Navy ultimately demoted the chief, who was convicted of one charge: bringing discredit to the armed forces by posing for photos with the teenage captive’s dead body.

Chief Gallagher’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said the president was right to stop the process of ousting the commando because the Navy’s move was clear retribution, coming just days after the president’s decision to restore his rank.

“With the timing, it’s difficult to see how this was anything but a direct, public rebuke to the president,” Mr. Parlatore said. “So I can’t see how the secretary of defense or anyone else is going to convince the president that is O.K.”

On Friday, Mr. Spencer made clear that he wanted to move forward with the matter, which could strip Chief Gallagher of his Trident pin. “I believe the process matters for good order and discipline,” he told Reuters in an interview at a security forum in Nova Scotia.

On Saturday, a Navy spokesman pointed to those remarks. “The secretary’s comments are in line with current White House guidance,” said Rear Adm. Charlie Brown, the chief spokesman for the Navy.

A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

The gold insignia Trident pin is one of the most revered in the military. It features an eagle on an anchor, clutching a flintlock pistol and a trident, and represents the grit of sailors who made it through some of the toughest training in the Navy, and are given some of the riskiest missions. It stands for fidelity and sacrifice. Even in death, the pin plays a role: SEALs pound their pins into the wood of fallen comrades’ caskets.

The Pentagon had already been quietly fuming this month after Mr. Trump cleared three members of the armed services, including Chief Gallagher, who were accused or had been convicted of war crimes, overruling military leaders who sought to punish them. All three were lionized by conservative commentators who portrayed them as war heroes unfairly prosecuted for actions taken in the heat of battle.

Mr. Trump, who was lobbied heavily by the families of the three service members, announced on Nov. 15 that he was reversing the demotion of Chief Gallagher. He also ordered the full pardon of Clint Lorance, a former Army lieutenant, from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, where he was serving a 19-year sentence for the murder of two civilians; and of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, an Army Special Forces officer who was facing murder charges for killing an unarmed Afghan he believed was a Taliban bomb maker.

One of the jurors who convicted Chief Gallagher expressed dismay at the president’s actions in an interview on Friday, noting that the all-military jury had given Chief Gallagher the maximum punishment allowable under the law because it found his behavior so reprehensible. He spoke out for the first time to defend the decision of the jury.

“People keep saying all he did is pose in a photo and there were lots of other guys in the photo,” said the juror, who asked that his name not be used to protect the privacy of the deliberations. “But he was the senior enlisted guy there, the oldest, the most experienced. He should have set an example for good order and discipline. He should have ensured stuff like that wasn’t happening. And he didn’t. He doesn’t deserve to wear chief’s anchors.”

The juror said he hoped the Trident review process would be allowed to go forward, adding, “Let other SEALs decide if he deserves to be a SEAL.”

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