After Trump intervenes, Navy launches review of SEAL's fitness to serve in elite force
Posted November 19, 2019 7:32 p.m. EST
CNN — Navy officials are expected to notify Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher on Wednesday that they are launching an administrative review of his fitness to continue to serve as a SEAL, days President Donald Trump reversed Gallagher's demotion for posing for a photo with a casualty.
The review could lead to Gallagher's expulsion from the elite warfare community, according to an administration official directly familiar with the matter.
This review comes days after Trump ignored military advice on November 15 to order Gallagher's rank restored and issue full pardons to two other service members, all of whom had been involved with potential war crimes.
Before the President acted, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other senior military leaders had warned Trump that his intervention could damage the integrity of the military judicial system, the ability of military leaders to ensure good order and discipline and the confidence of US allies and partners who host US troops.
Assessing the suitability
"We have implemented the President's order to restore Chief Gallagher's paygrade," said Captain Tamara Lawrence, a spokesperson for Navy Special Warfare Command. She said that Read Adm. Collin Green, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Command "is responsible for the Naval Special Warfare Force. He 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."
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday made clear he supported Green. His spokesman, Cmdr. Nate Christensen, told CNN that Gilday "supports his commanders in executing their roles, to include Rear Adm. Green."
The White House declined to comment. CBS was first to report on the review.
Gallagher's attorney, Timothy Parlatore, told CNN that while Gallagher has been told to appear in San Diego Wednesday, he has not been officially notified of the reason. Parlatore added that Trump's decision to restore Gallagher's rank meant that any additional punishments would go against the President's intent.
"It's incredible that they still can't let this go," Parlatore said, adding that the Navy's leadership was choosing to "essentially ignore" Trump's decision.
"Whatever you think about this President, that's an extremely dangerous precedent to set," he said.
Parlatore was particularly critical of Rear Adm. Collin Green, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, saying Trump should have Green relieved from duty due to his "insubordination."
If the review board goes against Gallagher, Trump would have the option to intervene again, but he would have to countermand a Navy ruling to order the service to keep Gallagher as a SEAL. If that were to happen the Navy could still decide to not let him deploy, the official said.
If Gallagher is expelled from the SEALs, he would either have to find a different specialty area in the Navy or retire, the official said.
Gallagher will be notified through a letter detailing what is being reviewed. And while he may choose to respond in writing, this process does not include any face-to-face sessions. But restoring is rank did not address his capability to serve, the official said.
Gallagher was demoted after being found guilty for posing for a photo with a casualty.
He had faced a court-martial for premeditated murder and attempted murder, but was acquitted. "Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified," the White House said in a statement Friday.
Administrative reviews are typical after cases involving lack of confidence in a service member or if for some reason that service member might not be fit to serve.
Since 2011, more than 150 reviews have resulted in sailors losing their status as SEALS or special warfare personnel.
While Gallagher reportedly has applied for retirement, the official said he has continued to violate procedures.
As recently as Monday, he was seen by other sailors entering an office space he was not permitted to enter because of protective orders against him that prohibit him from coming in to contact with Navy personnel who testified against him.
Three other SEALs who served with Gallagher are also being notified of review boards.