President Donald Trump made it clear on Friday he’s far from finished inserting himself into the military’s internal disciplinary processes. In a tweet harshly rebuking the U.S. Navy, Trump forbid officials from stripping the SEAL status of a serviceman whose demotion he recently reversed despite a military jury’s conviction.
“The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!” Trump tweeted Thursday. The Trident Pin is awarded to those few who manage to pass the notoriously challenging qualification course for the Navy’s special operations force.
Earlier this week, a Reuters report revealed that U.S. officials planned to further review Gallagher’s SEAL rank even after Trump’s decision. On Wednesday, Gallagher and three other SEALs also received notices requiring them to appear before an appraisal board, according to a follow-up report.
And while this news might have had some influence on Trump’s decision to kick off another Twitter rant, the catalyst appears to be a Fox News interview with Gallagher’s attorney, Timothy Parlatore, per CNN. Speaking with the host of Fox and Friends, Parlatore characterised the Navy’s renewed scrutiny as an act of revenge against the president roughly an hour prior to Trump’s tweet.
A military jury originally handed down Gallagher’s verdict in July, acquitting him of all but one count of war crimes after he faced murder charges in the fatal stabbing of an Islamic State detainee during a 2017 deployment in Iraq. He was convicted of illegally posing with the detainee’s corpse and subsequently received a drop in rank and pay.
That is, until Trump restored Gallagher’s pay and rank last week along with issuing pardons for two other officers accused of war crimes. All of which directly went against advice from top Pentagon officials, though, I mean, this is Trump we’re talking about so that kind of goes without saying.
In light of the Commander-in-Chief’s decision to start a very public dispute on Twitter dot com, the Navy announced it planned to halt Gallagher’s administrative appraisal process in a statement provided to multiple outlets:
“The Navy follows the lawful orders of the President. We will do so in case of an order to stop the administrative review of SOC Gallagher’s professional qualification. We are aware of the President’s tweet and we are awaiting further guidance.”
Seeing the Navy treat a tweet like an executive order shouldn’t surprise me at this point, and yet it still feels like something out of Black Mirror. Twitter might as well be considered an official channel through which to contact the president these days, a fact Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa only underlined when he opted to tell the president news of Gallagher’s review via tagging him in a tweet.
@realDonaldTrump I don’t know if it is true or rumor But if Navy is denying Gallagher his SEAL designation in retaliation for ur pardon of him THAT is a direct insult to u as commander in chief Take whatever steps u can to bring COMPLETE justice for Gallagher
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) November 22, 2019
Referring to Trump in the second person as if he’d mistakenly meant to send a DM, Grassley argued the Navy’s scrutiny constitutes “a direct insult to [you] as commander in chief” and that the president should, “Take whatever steps [you] can to bring COMPLETE justice for Gallagher.”
You know, he may actually be on to something. Now that the FCC is finally getting rid of its clunky old public comment system, how about we just switch over to tagging our representatives directly on social media whenever we have a problem? Better yet, officials should just go ahead and discuss all of the country’s inner workings and deliberations in full view of an international audience, exactly how the Founding Fathers envisioned it. #Democracy, folks.