The White House will not stop a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes from facing a peer review that may lead to his ouster from the elite force, said a U.S. official who also stated that the Navy was notified of the decision on Friday.
At least for now, the decision defuses a potential clash between President Trump and top U.S. Navy officials planning to convene a panel to decide if Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher should remain a SEAL, or be stripped of the trident pin denoting membership in the group.
The President had said in a tweet on Thursday that he would not let the Navy strip Gallagher of the pin.
Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher was demoted in rank and pay grade after being convicted by a military jury in July of illegally posing for pictures with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter. However, earlier this month President Trump ordered the Navy to restore his status.
Gallagher, 40, had been charged and acquitted of more serious offenses, including murder.
On Sunday, Gallagher appeared on Fox News Channel, and indicated that he hoped to retire on Nov. 30th, “without the board” convening to decide whether he can continue to be a SEAL, considered among the most elite of U.S. fighting forces.
When Navy officials subsequently said they were launching a separate peer review process to consider whether Gallagher was fit to remain a SEAL, President Trump balked.
“The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” President Trump said on Twitter.
The President’s comment raised concerns about whether Trump was undercutting the authority of Navy commanders.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said that Gallagher’s continued membership in the SEALS should be decided by a board of his peers because “the process matters for good order and discipline.”
President Trump, without commenting on Gallagher’s possible expulsion from the SEALS or the decision to let the process move forward, on Sunday promoted Gallagher’s Fox News interview in a tweet, and added “have no fear, all will end well for everyone!”