Navy seeks to eject sailor championed by Trump from SEALs

The Navy will review whether an officer who was convicted of posing with the corpse of an ISIS captive before President Donald Trump intervened should be allowed to remain in the elite SEAL corps, along with three of his supervising officers, a defense official told NBC News on Tuesday night.

A military jury acquitted Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher of murder and war crimes charges in July but convicted him of having posed with the teenage ISIS fighter's corpse. He was ordered dropped in rank from chief to petty officer first class.

Trump last week reversed the order, directing Gallagher's restoration as chief petty officer.

Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the Navy, told NBC News on Tuesday night: "We have implemented the president's order to restore Chief Gallagher's paygrade."

Image: CPO Edward Gallagher
Image: CPO Edward Gallagher

Trump's order was widely reported to have created a rift with the Navy, and on Tuesday night, the defense official said the service would seek to strip Gallagher and three of his supervising officers of the gold eagle Trident emblem signifying that they are members of one of the Navy's elite Special Warfare Navy Sea, Air and Land units, better known as SEALs.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Rear Adm. Collin P. Green, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, would issue an order Wednesday directing that a Trident Review Board be convened to determine whether to withdraw the emblem from Gallagher and the three other officers — Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier and Lt. Thomas MacNeil.

Green would make a ruling based on the board's recommendations, which would then go to the Navy's top leadership.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news

Removal of the Trident denotes that a sailor is no longer a SEAL, but it isn't a demotion. Since 2011, 154 sailors have been expelled from the SEALs.

Asked whether Green expected reprisals from the White House, the defense official said Green had the backing of Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and of Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations.

The three other men all testified at Gallagher's trial.

Breisch, Gallagher's troop commander, wasn't charged. A naval investigation found that he had been informed about the killings of the ISIS detainees and others multiple times but that he told other concerned SEALs to "let it go."

Charges of failing to report alleged war crimes were dropped against Portier after Gallagher was acquitted in August.

MacNeil, one of the SEALs who reported Gallagher and testified at his trial under immunity. He also posed for the photo with the ISIS fighter's corpse and was accused of drinking with enlisted SEALs, which is against regulations.