Attorney: Navy retaliating against SEAL helped by Trump

Julie Watson and Lolita Baldor
Associated Press

San Diego – An attorney for a Navy SEAL convicted of posing with a dead Islamic State militant contended Wednesday that Navy leaders are trying to remove him from the elite force in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision last week to restore his rank.

Rear Adm. Collin Green made his intentions clear at a staff meeting Monday that he wants to remove Special Warfare Operations Chief Edward Gallagher’s Trident pin, which designates him as a SEAL, attorney Timothy Parlatore said. Green is the Naval Special Warfare commander.

“What I’m hearing is that the rear admiral said very disparaging comments about the president and stated his disagreement with the president’s actions and said therefore I want to move forward in removing his Trident,” Parlatore said.

In this Tuesday, July 2, 2019, file photo, Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher leaves a military court on Naval Base San Diego.

Parlatore filed an inspector general’s complaint Tuesday accusing Green of insubordination for defying Trump. He said Green should be fired and court-martialed.

Trump on Friday restored Gallagher’s rank to chief after it had been reduced following a court-martial this summer in which a military jury convicted him of posing with a dead Islamic State militant in Iraq in 2017.

Gallagher was acquitted of more serious charges, including murder in the fatal stabbing of the militant captive and attempted murder for shooting at civilians.

Green on Wednesday planned to notify Gallagher that he has called for a peer-review process, known as a Trident Review Board, to assess whether his fellow SEALs believe he is still suitable to remain on the elite force, said two U.S. officials familiar with the case but not authorized to speak publicly.

Green also is calling for a peer-review of three SEAL officers who oversaw Gallagher during his deployment to Iraq in 2017 – Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier and Lt. Thomas MacNeil, according to the officials.

The officials disputed that the reviews are in retaliation for the president’s actions.

They said that discussions about convening a review board began shortly after Gallagher’s conviction in July. Early drafts of the letters were dated November 1, the officials said.

Gallagher will go before a five-person review board that will include one SEAL officer and four senior enlisted SEALs. The other three officers will go before three-person boards.

The process is expected to last until sometime in January. The review boards’ recommendations will be sent to Green. He will forward those recommendations, along with his own endorsement or disagreement with the decision, to the Navy Personnel Command, which makes the final ruling.

Removing their Trident pins means they will no longer be SEALs but they would still be able to serve in the Navy, though Gallagher and Portier have said they plan to leave the service soon. Still it would be considered a mark on their career that they were cast out of the prestigious warrior force.

The Navy has revoked 154 Trident pins since 2011.

Naval Special Warfare spokeswoman, Capt. Tamara Lawrence, said in a statement that Green “remains focused on delivering a capable, ready, and lethal maritime special operations force in support of national security objectives, which includes assessing the suitability of any member of his force via administrative processes.”

Last month, Adm. Mike Gilday, the U.S. chief of naval operations, denied a request for clemency for Gallagher and upheld the military jury’s sentence. Parlatore said a loss of rank would have cost Gallagher up to $200,000 in retirement funds.

Gilday’s spokesman, Cmdr. Nate Christensen, said the chief of naval operations supports his commanders including Green.

Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School and served as a lawyer in the Coast Guard, said he’s not surprised the Navy would call for a review.

“I think this would have happened anyway to a SEAL with a court-martial conviction,” he said.


Baldor reported from Washington.