Trump Orders Navy to Withdraw Achievement Medals from Prosecutors in Eddie Gallagher Case

US President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on July 21, 2019. - Trump is returning to Washington after spending the weekend at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf resort. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL …
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump ordered the Navy to rescind achievement medals awarded to prosecutors involved in the case against Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was found not guilty of war crimes in a trial earlier this month.

“The Prosecutors who lost the case against SEAL Eddie Gallagher (who I released from solitary confinement so he could fight his case properly), were ridiculously given a Navy Achievement Medal,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

“Not only did they lose the case, they had difficulty with respect to information that may have been obtained from opposing lawyers and for giving immunity in a totally incompetent fashion,” he added. “I have directed the Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer & Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson to immediately withdraw and rescind the awards.”

“I am very happy for Eddie Gallagher and his family!” he concluded.

Gallagher, 40, was found not guilty of six charges related to murder of a wounded Islamic State (ISIS) fighter and shooting at innocent civilians during a 2017 deployment to Iraq. He was found guilty on one count related to taking a photo with an ISIS corpse.

The case against Gallagher was based on the testimony of a small group of junior Navy SEALs who had deployed with Gallagher and found him too abrasive and hard-charging.

However, the case began to unravel even before it went to trial and became a high-profile embarrassment to the Navy and the SEALs. Prosecutors were caught using spyware on defense attorneys and a journalist, and were removed from the case weeks before the trial was to begin.

During the trial, another Navy SEAL admitted on the stand to killing the ISIS fighter by asphyxiation. The prosecution, angered, accused their own witness of falsely admitting to the murder. However, the defense said prosecutors simply never asked how the ISIS fighter actually died, in their desire to pin the murder on Gallagher.

Other embarrassing details emerged, including that the small group of SEALs referred to themselves as the “sewing circle” and maintained a rooftop bar on deployment.

Despite losing the case, four prosecutors and four legal support staffers on the case received Navy Achievement Medals for “superb results” and “expert litigation” during a ceremony a week later, according to reports.

According to Task and Purpose, the Navy’s Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) in San Diego hosted an award ceremony on July 10 in one of its courtrooms for the attorneys and staffers, during which the RLSO Chief of Staff said words to the effect of “no matter the result, we were right to prosecute [Gallagher],” and “justice was done.”

The judge in the case, Navy Capt. Aaron Rugh, reportedly attended the ceremony although he is due to preside over a case involving another one of the SEALs, Lt. Cmdr. Jake Portier, Gallagher’s platoon commander. Portier has been accused of failing to take action against Gallagher.

Portier’s defense attorneys argued his Rugh’s attendance at the ceremony calls his impartiality into question.

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