Someday, there will be a book and maybe a movie on the case of SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher. But in the meantime, the saga continues, and gets more unbelievable every day.
Yesterday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper declared that President Donald Trump ordered him to stop the planned disciplinary review of Gallagher, which could have resulted in him losing his Trident.
The media, of course, let out a collective gasp of shock and horror, as though this was some previously unknown fact and the president had done something awful and secret and IMPEACHABLE.
Except… President Trump had made his opinions known and very public last week on November 21st when he tweeted for all the world to see: 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 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2019
And then there’s that other really giant glaring 800-pound gorilla fact: The President of the United States is the COMMANDER IN CHIEF of the U.S. Military, dammit!
Even in the SAME AP article which reports on Trump’s “order” to Esper, Esper himself says “The president is the commander in chief. He has every right, authority and privilege to do what he wants to do.”
And while the AP’s hair is on fire, reporting about something the president has every right to do, they did manage to put in a little aside about the fact it was fired Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer who was doing the secret dealing.
Esper said Spencer had gone behind his back last week to propose a secret deal with the White House in which Spencer would fix the outcome of the Gallagher review. Esper said this was a violation of the military chain of command.
According to Fox News, a senior U.S. official said Trump rejected the offer saying, “no, we’re done.”
Waaaay waaay waaay at the bottom of the AP article, we read that Esper never directly expressed disagreement with Trump’s instructions.
Esper said he had previously advocated for allowing the Navy review to go forward. But when Trump gave him a “verbal instruction” to stop the process, he did so.
Esper did not say explicitly that he disagreed with Trump’s order.
Once Trump gave the order, Esper said he responded, “Roger. I got it.”
BUT WAIT. There’s more.
Per AP, Even before receiving that order, however, Esper had decided the Gallagher process should be stopped. He said his rationale was that, “given the events of the last few days,” it was no longer possible for Gallagher to get a fair shake.
“As professional as they are,” he said of the Navy review board members, “no matter what they would decide, they would be criticized from many sides, which would further drag this issue on, dividing the institution. I want the SEALs and the Navy to move beyond this now, fully focused on their warfighting mission.”
Soooo...while the flavor of this entire mess now is to say Trump was putting undue, unsavory pressure on his military chiefs, his own SecDef had come to the conclusion enough was enough, and it was the Navy Sec who was attempting to go behind the backs of his colleagues and cut a deal – which Trump refused.
But that doesn’t stop the media from banging their anti-Trump drum as often as possible. The AP trotted out a bunch of experts on the subject to bash the president.
Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee and an Army veteran accused Trump of “inappropriate involvement” in the military justice system.
“The White House’s handling of this matter erodes the basic command structure of the military and the basic function of the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” Reed said.
Yeah, but he’s the commander in chief. What part of the basic command structure does that erode?
Here we are, just a couple days away from Thanksgiving. We had hoped for nothing more than a happy, peaceful Thanksgiving celebration for Eddie Gallagher and his family.
After all, the major charges against him were dropped. His rank was restored, and he was looking forward to his retirement from the SEALs and the next chapter of his life, as an advocate for other service members in similar situations, and collaborating with Nine Line on a new brand of outdoor apparel called Salty Frog Gear.
But we’re still dealing with this crap.