President Donald Trump's direct order canceled plans by the Navy and the Pentagon to proceed with a disciplinary review board against Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday.
Esper said that he and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley had pressed Trump to allow the military's legal processes to play out, but had no choice but to follow his order to scrap the review that could have taken away Gallagher's Trident pin, the prestigious SEAL symbol.
"Our position [was] about allowing processes to play out remained unchanged," Esper said of himself and Milley.
However, "He's the commander in chief," Esper said at a hastily-called off-camera session with Pentagon reporters. "I said 'Roger, I got it.'"
Rear Adm. Collin Green, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, had earlier notified Gallagher that a review board of noncommissioned officers would convene to "evaluate [his] operational ability, ethics, judgment, potential and motivation for continued service" as a SEAL.
The review board for Gallagher, who was acquitted of murder charges in the death of a teenage captive but convicted of posing for a photo with the corpse, has now been canceled, Esper said.
The drawn-out Gallagher case should "not be thrown into the laps of senior NCOs" following the president's action, Esper said.
"They would be criticized by many sides," no matter what the NCOs decided, Esper said, and the ensuing debates "would further drag this issue on, dividing the institution."
However, it's unclear what effect Trump's order would have on the cases of three other SEALS who also face a review board for their actions connected to the Gallagher case, Esper said.
It was also unclear what impact Trump's order would have on the case of Army Maj. Matt Golsteyn. Trump extended executive clemency to Golsteyn this month ahead of a planned February trial for the alleged murder of a suspected bomb-maker in Afghanistan. Advocates have pressed the Army to restore Golsteyn's Special Forces tab and combat award -- a Silver Star approved for upgrade to Distinguished Service Cross -- a possibility Army officials have said they're looking into.
"We'll take these one step at a time," Esper said of the pending actions involving the three Navy SEALS and Golsteyn. "Today, I'm just talking about the Gallagher case, and we're focused on Gallagher today."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.