The Navy SEAL embroiled in a fight to keep a coveted uniform device worn by special operators had planned to voluntarily surrender the pin to keep his elite community from making more headlines, Military.com has confirmed.
Special Operations Chief Eddie Gallagher asked his lawyer to draft a letter to Navy leaders stating he would hand over his trident pin, attorney Tim Parlatore said on Monday. The pair had been discussing options ever since Gallagher got orders to appear before a panel of his peers who would decide whether he got to keep the trident.
"This whole trident review process has become so politicized," Parlatore, a former Navy officer, said of the Dec. 2 review board. "Eddie loves the Navy and he loves the SEALs. ... We're not going to do this kangaroo court -- we're not going to let [them] continue to drag this community through the mud."
But the plans to preempt the process and give up the trident were halted on Sunday when a spokesman for Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer had been fired. While details behind the ousting remain murky -- with Esper, Spencer and President Donald Trump all giving different reasons for the forced resignation -- the commander in chief made it clear that he was not happy with how the Navy handled Gallagher's case.
"Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer's services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper," Trump tweeted. "I thank Richard for his service & commitment. Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned, including his Trident Pin."
Gallagher, who had been accused of war crimes during a 2017 deployment to Iraq and was later acquitted of murder but found guilty of posing for a photo with a casualty, didn't want members of the elite SEAL community to suffer anymore fallout from the drawn-out case, Parlatore said. Navy Times first reported Sunday that Gallagher was considering handing over the pin.
"The master chiefs and the commander that were assigned to his board, those individuals were put into a horrible position," the SEAL's attorney said. "...They have to sit in judgment while being told your admiral wants you to give this result and your commander in chief wants you to give the exact opposite result -- oh, and millions of people are watching."
The Navy announced on Monday that it had canceled Gallagher's scheduled Dec. 2 trident review board. Esper told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday that Trump had ordered him to allow the SEAL to retire with his trident.
Over the last year, Trump has stepped in several times to assist Gallagher. He got him out of confinement this spring, ordered the Navy to rescind medals awarded to the prosecution in his case, and instructed the Navy to restore the SEAL's rank to the rank of chief petty officer.
None of that has been as divisive as the trident debate, Parlatore said, which has even resulted in the attorney receiving a death threat that has been handed over to the FBI.
With the situation having become so polarized, Parlatore said Naval Special Warfare Command was putting Gallagher's peers in a bad situation by forcing them to make the decision about his trident.
"Why put, why put those men, all of whom have had distinguished careers in the SEAL teams, why put them into that position?" he said.
The Navy has taken away more than 150 Navy special operators' special uniform devices since 2011. Service regulations say they can be removed for anything from drug or alcohol use to performance issues or loss of reliability or sound judgment.
Gallagher is set to retire officially from the Navy as a chief petty officer on Nov. 30 with his trident pin.
On Sunday, the chief petty officer thanked Trump for intervening on his behalf, calling the president a "true leader" and "exactly what the military and this nation needs," according to a statement released to Fox News.
"You stepped in numerous times and showed true moral fiber by correcting all the wrongs that were being done to me," Gallagher said.