By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – The U.S. military formally notified a court-martialed Navy SEAL commando on Wednesday that he faces proceedings to expel him from the ranks of elite special forces after his demotion was reversed by President Donald Trump, his lawyer and a Navy spokeswoman said.
A trident review board hearing is set for Dec. 2 to weigh whether Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who was charged with committing war crimes during a 2017 deployment to Iraq, is fit to remain in the SEALs, Navy Captain Tamara Lawrence said.
She told Reuters that three of Gallagher’s commanding officers face separate hearings to review whether they, too, should be removed from the SEALs.
Gallagher’s civilian lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, confirmed his client was served with papers in San Diego, where he is based, informing him of the upcoming review, convened by Naval Special Warfare commander Rear Admiral Collin Green.
Parlatore said Green’s move to strip Gallagher of his SEAL status marked a direct challenge to Trump’s authority as commander-in-chief and an act of insubordination for which Parlatore said the admiral himself could be court-martialed.
Parlatore contested the move in a complaint filed on Tuesday with the U.S. Defense Department inspector general’s office.
Gallagher’s notice of a trident review board hearing cited the verdict rendered in his court-martial trial in July as evidence calling into question his suitability to continue serving in naval special warfare, the Navy said.
A military jury acquitted him of charges he fired at unarmed civilians and murdered a captured Islamic State fighter by stabbing the wounded prisoner in the neck. But he was found guilty of illegally posing with the detainee’s corpse.
Although spared prison time, he was sentenced to a demotion in rank and pay, from chief petty officer to petty officer first-class, along with a two-month forfeiture of his salary.
Trump last Friday intervened in the case to restore his rank and pay, allowing Gallagher to retire later this year on a full pension. The president also granted pardons to two Army officers separately accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.
Critics said Trump’s moves undermined military justice and sent a message that U.S. battlefield atrocities would be tolerated.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Culver City, Calif.; Editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool)