WASHINGTON – The U.S. Navy announced on Wednesday it would scrap plans to carry out reviews of three Navy SEALs that could have led to their ouster from the elite force, after President Donald Trump’s extraordinary intervention in a related case.
“I have determined that any failures in conduct, performance, judgment, or professionalism exhibited by these officers be addressed through other administrative measures as appropriate,” Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said in a statement.
The decision follows Trump’s order on Sunday that Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher keep his status as a Navy SEAL, even after he was convicted of battlefield misconduct. The review of the three other SEALs was connected to the Gallagher case.
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On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper asked for the resignation of former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over his handling of the case of Gallagher, who was acquitted by a military jury of murdering a captured Islamic State fighter in Iraq, but convicted of posing with the detainee’s corpse.
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In his first comments about the move, Esper said Monday that Trump had ordered the Pentagon to let Gallagher keep his Trident pin designating him as a member of the elite force, instead of holding a review board.
“I spoke with the President on Sunday. He gave me the order that Eddie Gallagher will retain his Trident pin,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon.
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Esper said he had been in favor of following the regular processes but stressed that, as president, Trump had “every right, authority and privilege to do what he wants to do.”
The top U.S. general said that as far as he was concerned the Gallagher case was now closed.
“As far as I’m concerned, it is case closed now and it is time to move on and address the national security of the United States,” Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a small group of reporters during a trip to the Middle East.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; editing by Sandra Maler; other Reuters staff contributed to this report.)