Navy official says White House won’t intervene
The Navy was notified the White House will not intervene to stop an ongoing review of whether SEAL Eddie Gallagher should be kicked out, a Navy official and a military official confirmed to CNN on Sunday.
Navy officials had previously said White House staff had advised them that the review could continue.
An administration official told CNN on Saturday that the Pentagon was strongly urging the White House to let military discipline measures run their course without interference, meaning that military officials want to be able to make the decision about Gallagher’s fate without President Donald Trump weighing in.
Gallagher was convicted of bringing discredit to the armed services after posing next to a dead ISIS fighter’s body, which is against regulations. He was then demoted in rank — a decision Trump a week ago reversed in a move that angered military officials. Green then moved ahead with the process to kick Gallagher out of the SEALs.
The Associated Press first reported the White House notification to the Navy.
The President’s decision not to intervene in the case comes several weeks after Trump not only restored Gallagher’s rank but also pardoned two other service members. He ignored advice from the Pentagon when he intervened in the three war crimes cases.
Last week, Trump tweeted that he wouldn’t let the Navy punish Gallagher, 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 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.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told reporters Saturday after the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, that so far there has been no order from the President to stop the process of reviewing Gallagher’s status. Spencer said he would need an order “to act” and added that he does not “interpret (tweets) as a formal order.”
“I do not interpret what the President does. I do what he says,” Spencer said. “The President of the United States is the commander in chief. He is involved in every aspect of government, and he can make decisions and do things and give orders as he deems appropriate.”
The New York Times reported Saturday that Spencer and Rear Adm. Collin Green, the admiral overseeing the SEALs, threatened to resign over the possible intervention by Trump. Spencer denied later Saturday that either he or Green made any such threat.
CNN’s Devan Cole, Ryan Browne and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.