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1 Aug, 2019 02:41

Trump wants to strip medals from Navy lawyers who failed to convict SEAL of war crimes

Trump wants to strip medals from Navy lawyers who failed to convict SEAL of war crimes

US President Donald Trump has demanded the Navy strip military prosecutors who failed to convict SEAL Eddie Gallagher on murder charges of the medals they were awarded after losing the case, calling the awards “ridiculous.”

Not only did [the four military attorneys] lose the case, they had difficulty with respect to information that may have been obtained from opposing lawyers and for giving immunity in a totally incompetent fashion,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday, adding that he had directed Navy authorities to “immediately withdraw and rescind the awards.” 

The prosecution team received Navy Achievement Medals earlier this month for their roles in prosecuting SEAL Eddie Gallagher for several war crimes, even though they failed to convict him of anything more serious than appearing in an inappropriate photograph. Lieutenants George Hageman, Brian John, and Scott McDonald – plus a female officer whose name and rank were redacted – were praised for their “exceptional witness preparation” and “superb results,” while Gallagher was released with credit for time served, docked one rank and forced to pay a $10,000 fine. He remains in the Navy.

Gallagher was found not guilty of stabbing an IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS) prisoner to death in a SEAL compound near Mosul after the prosecution’s star witness, SEAL medic Corey Scott, confessed that he, not Gallagher, had suffocated the detainee by plugging his breathing tube. The jury also exonerated Gallagher of shooting at least two civilians from a sniper nest and then trying to cover it up. Gallagher's own platoon turned him in, but the defense called it an attempted frame-up aimed at preventing Gallagher from being awarded a Silver Star.

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The case fell apart in part due to prosecutorial misconduct, with lead prosecutor Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak kicked off the team in disgrace for emailing a tracking beacon to defense attorneys and media that would eavesdrop on their communications, while the Navy Times reportedly found records suggesting military officials had “withheld information that could have helped exonerate Gallagher.” News of their commendation only became public on Tuesday after a Freedom of Information Act request by Navy Times.

Trump had Gallagher transferred from the military brig to a less restrictive facility in March and was considering a pardon for the 20-year Navy veteran before he was found not guilty in court. Several members of Gallagher's defense team have worked for Trump or his companies.

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