An internal review of the Navy SEAL who posed for a photo next to an Islamic State terrorist’s corpse while in Iraq in 2017 is moving forward, two defense officials told Fox News on Sunday, in a case that could lead to the loss of his SEAL Trident.
Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher was found not guilty of murdering the ISIS fighter during a 2017 deployment to Iraq, but was convicted of posing for a photo with the corpse. His case and trial made international headlines and caught the attention of President Trump, who tweeted this past Wednesday in support of Gallagher.
“The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” Trump wrote.
“This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!” he added. The Trident pin signifies membership of the elite SEAL force.
Gallagher was demoted from chief petty officer to a 1st class petty officer following his conviction, but Trump this month restored Gallagher’s rank.
In the wake of the president’s Wednesday tweet, multiple Navy officials told Fox News that Navy Secretary Richard Spencer had threatened to resign if the military branch was not allowed to go through with the administrative review board. Spencer has denied the claim.
The Navy secretary said Saturday at an international security forum in Canada that he did not consider a tweet by Trump an order and would need a formal order to stop the Navy review board, scheduled to begin Dec. 2.
“I need a formal order to act,” Spencer said. Of Trump’s tweets, “I don’t interpret them as a formal order.”
The Navy on Wednesday had notified Gallagher that he will face the review board to determine if he should remain on the elite force.
“The president of the United States is the commander in chief. He’s involved in every aspect of government and he can make decisions and give orders as appropriate,” Spencer said.
Gallagher’s lawyers have accused the Navy of trying to remove the SEAL designation in retaliation for Trump’s decision to restore his rank.
Gallagher filed a complaint with the inspector general accusing Rear Adm. Collin Green, the Naval Special Warfare commander, of insubordination for defying Trump’s actions.
Speaking earlier Sunday on “Fox & Friends,” Gallagher repeated his argument that the Navy was acting in retaliation.
“They could have taken my Trident at any time they wanted,” he said. “Now they’re trying to take it after the president restored my rank.”
Gallagher said he wanted to be allowed to retire on Nov. 30 “with all the honors that I’ve earned, get back to my family.”
Green also notified three SEAL officers who oversaw Gallagher during the deployment — Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier and Lt. Thomas MacNeil — that they are also being reviewed, according to U.S. officials. Removing their Trident pins means they will no longer be SEALs but could remain in the Navy.
The Navy has revoked 154 Trident pins since 2011.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.