Navy secretary says SEAL review should proceed despite Trump’s opposition
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said Friday that a military review of the status of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher should proceed despite President Donald Trump tweeting Thursday that Gallagher should not lose it, a possible outcome of the review.
“I believe the process matters for good order and discipline,” Spencer told Reuters on the sidelines of the Halifax Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada.
According to Reuters, when Spencer was asked whether he believed the proceedings against Gallagher should continue, Spencer replied “Yes, I do.”
A spokesperson for Spencer told CNN that his comments were in line with previous statements the secretary has made about supporting his commanders.
‘Handled very badly’
On Thursday, Trump tweeted, “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 Trident Pin, which is worn by Navy SEALs, is awarded following their completion of an intense qualification course and symbolizes membership in the elite military community.
A Navy official told CNN Friday that following Trump’s tweet, the Navy had paused proceedings against Gallagher until additional guidance was provided by the White House.
On Saturday, Chief Navy spokesman Rear Admiral Charles Brown told CNN that Spencer’s “comments are in line with current White House guidance.”
Trump had previously intervened in Gallagher’s case on Nov. 15, reversing Gallagher’s demotion for posing for a photo with the dead body of an ISIS casualty in Iraq. Gallagher was acquitted of a murder charge.
The President also pardoned two other servicemembers who were facing war crimes allegations.
US defense officials told CNN that Trump took that action against the advice of senior Pentagon leaders, saying the move could undermine the military justice system.
Gallagher’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, has said that the Navy’s decision to order the review of Gallagher’s status was part of an effort to push-back against Trump’s earlier decision to restore the SEAL’s rank.
Parlatore has slammed the Navy’s leadership, particularly Rear Adm. Collin Green, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Command who had ordered the review board.
Green ordering the review “crossed a very dangerous line, having our uniformed flag officers being directly defiant of our commander in chief,” Parlatore told CNN Thursday.
Spencer has said that he supports the decisions of his commanders as they do their jobs, to include disciplinary actions.
“Secretary Spencer supports his commanders in executing their roles, to include Rear Adm. Green,” US Navy Cdr. Sarah Higgins, a spokesperson for Spencer, told CNN.
Green has made a concerted effort to boost discipline within the Navy SEALs following a series of high profile cases involving misbehavior and possible illegal actions.
Spencer is one of the longest serving top Pentagon officials in the Trump Administration. He was nominated to be Secretary of the Navy in 2017.
CNN’s Barbara Starr contributed to this report.