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Eddie Gallagher could lose his SEAL status as Navy begins board review, despite Trump's intervention in his case

November 19, 2019 - 9:00 pm

pamelasphotopoetry/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Special Warfare Chief Eddie Gallagher could lose his status as a U.S. Navy SEAL as the service begins a board review process that will examine whether he should keep his Trident pin, which identifies him as a member of the SEAL community, according to two U.S. officials.

Gallagher, while acquitted of killing a wounded Islamic State captive earlier this year, was sentenced to four months of time served and a reduction in rank for posing with a corpse during a 2017 deployment to Iraq. But last week, President Donald Trump intervened in the SEAL's case, restoring his rank to E-7.

The president also pardoned two other service members accused of or serving sentences for war crimes convictions.

A spokesperson for Naval Special Warfare Command, Capt. Tamara Lawrence, told ABC News that the SEALs have implemented Trump's order to restore Gallagher's paygrade.

However, Trump's intervention in Gallagher's case did not exonerate his conviction or expunge it from his service record. Because of that, Gallagher's conduct could still be reviewed to see if he deserves to remain a SEAL.

The Navy will convene a separate board review process that will determine if Gallagher, along with three SEAL officers who served with him during the Iraq deployment, should maintain their status, the two officials said. While a decision to pull Gallagher's Trident would likely anger the president who has long advocated for the SEAL, one official said the White House is aware of the Navy's decision to convene the review.

On Wednesday, the four SEALs will receive a letter signed by SEAL Commander Rear Adm. Collin Green advising them that a board is being convened to review their performance, the officials told ABC News. These boards are convened to review any number of behaviors by SEALs, including medical issues, alcohol or drug abuse and loss of confidence by command.

Green has the ability to pull Gallagher's Trident without a review board because he is an enlisted SEAL. However, the SEAL commander chose to provide Gallagher with the board process, which is typically reserved for officers. Under the review board, three of Gallagher's SEAL peers will review a packet of information about his case, as well as Gallagher's rebuttal statement.

The board will then make a recommendation to Green, who can choose to endorse it before sending it to the Navy's Personnel Command for action. The process could likely take one month, one official said.

"Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command is responsible for the Naval Special Warfare Force," Lawrence said. "He remains focused on delivering a capable, ready and lethal maritime special operations force in support of national security objectives, which includes assessing the suitability of any member of his force via administrative processes."

 "Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, supports his commanders in executing their roles, to include Rear Adm. Green," Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesperson for Gilday, said in a statement.

The officials said that Green had sought support from officers in his chain of command prior to proceeding with the board process.

The other SEALs who will be notified of the review on Wednesday are the officers who were in charge of his platoon during the 2017 deployment: Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Gallagher's troop commander, Lt. Jacob Portier, the officer in charge, and Lt. Thomas MacNeil, the assistant officer in charge.

Since 2011, 154 SEAL Tridents or Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC) pins have been revoked for various reasons.

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