As Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher awaits Navy action to revoke his prized trident pin, his legal team is alleging that top service leaders are showing a pattern of disrespect for the office of the presidency.
Days after President Donald Trump ordered the Navy to restore Gallagher's rank to chief petty officer, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command assembled a staff meeting. In it, according to a complaint filed with the Pentagon's inspector general's office on Tuesday, Rear Adm. Collin Green "made clear his contempt of the President and disagreement with the President's decision" to bump Gallagher's rank back up to chief.
That's when Green announced plans to strip Gallagher of his trident, the complaint states. Three of the chief's superiors face the same fate: Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier and Lt. Thomas MacNeil.
A Navy official confirmed to Military.com on Tuesday that letters have been drafted to the four informing them that they'll face trident review boards. The boards will determine whether they can keep the coveted special-warfare insignia.
Tim Parlatore, one of Gallagher's lawyers who co-wrote the IG complaint, called the move a direct affront to the commander in chief. Trump announced his decision to restore Gallagher's chief petty officer rank on Friday, overturning an earlier decision made by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday to allow the special operator to retire as an E-6, one rank lower. Navy regulations had him facing demotion to E-1.
"If you, as a senior officer, don't agree with the orders you're given, you have an obligation to resign, not to actively resist from your position and use your command to push a political resistance against the president," Parlatore said.
Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare Command, said the claim in the IG complaint about Green showing contempt for Trump is "outright wrong." Navy Times was the first to report on the IG complaint.
Gallagher's high-profile legal battle has been fraught with controversy. He was accused of killing a captive terrorist, but was acquitted in July after another sailor testified that he, not Gallagher, had actually killed the man. Gallagher was ultimately found guilty of taking improper war zone photos.
Several blunders during and after the case led to a Navy Department-wide review of the Judge Advocate General Corps and staff judge advocate community.
Cmdr. Chris Czaplak, the lead prosecutor in the Gallagher trial, was kicked off the case after admitting to sending emails with a tracking mechanism to defense attorneys and a Navy Times editor. And members of the prosecution were given Navy Achievement Medals for "superb results," despite losing their case. The move caught Trump's attention, and the president later ordered the medals be rescinded.
Parlatore said Gallagher has repeatedly been singled out while others have been allowed to break the rules without consequence.
"Nobody has wanted to hold any of them accountable," he said.
The complaint also took issue with a tweet Navy officials posted after the Friday White House announcement, calling the messaging "undeniably contemptuous and snarky."
"As the Commander in Chief, the President has the authority to restore Special Warfare Operator First Class Gallagher to the paygrade of E-7," the official Navy Chief of Information account tweeted. "We acknowledge his order and are implementing it."
Rear. Adm. Charlie Brown, head of Navy Chief of Information, declined to comment further, saying only that the messaging was consistent with what came out of the White House. But critics on social media said the Navy intentionally referred to Gallagher as an E-7, rather than the celebrated "chief" title Trump restored.
"It's just part of that same pattern of disrespect for the office of the president," Parlatore said.
Green has the support of top Navy leaders as he pursues the possibility of convening boards that could strip the SEALs of their tridents.
"Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, supports his commanders in executing their roles, to include Rear Adm. Green," Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the top admiral, said Tuesday.
Parlatore compared the idea of Green taking Gallager's trident to ripping away his identity. The move to continue punishing Gallagher is personal, the lawyer added, and it's meant to publicly humiliate the SEAL and "stick it to the president."
"With all of the things that went wrong in this case, if we don't file an IG complaint to have some independent investigators come in to look at this, it's just going to happen again," Parlatore said.