For all four men, the review board’s decision is likely to center on the allegations that Chief Gallagher committed murder during a 2017 deployment to Iraq.
In court testimony, multiple SEALs in his platoon said that they reported one killing the day it happened, and several times after that as well, but that the platoon commander, Lieutenant Portier, did not forward the report up the chain of command as required by regulations. Lieutenant Portier was criminally charged with failing to report the murder; he denied the charges, and they were dropped after Chief Gallagher was acquitted.
Commander Breisch was the troop commander over Chief Gallagher and Lieutenant Portier in Iraq. SEALs in the platoon testified that they told him repeatedly about the killings after the deployment, but were told to “decompress” and “let it go,” according to a Navy investigation. Commander Breisch was not charged.
Lieutenant MacNeil was the most junior officer in the platoon, and was one of the SEALs who reported Chief Gallagher for murder and testified at his trial. During the proceedings, though, it was revealed that Lieutenant MacNeil had done nothing to stop the chief from posing for a trophy photo with the head of the dead teenage captive he was accused of stabbing, and had posed for the photo as well. At trial it was also revealed that Lieutenant MacNeil had been drinking with enlisted SEALs in Iraq, in violation of regulations.
The president has the authority to stop or reverse any decision concerning the SEALs’ Tridents, according to Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School. But for generations, he said, presidents have generally refrained from inserting themselves into the military’s personnel decisions.
“The president is the commander in chief; he could give orders about how to peel the potatoes in the chow hall if he wanted,” Mr. Fidell said. “The question is, should he?”
Regarding Chief Gallagher’s Trident, he said: “A reasonable observer could say this is a completely inappropriate intrusion into the military. If Trump saves his Trident — and I’d bet on it — I would say he will have driven the wedge ever deeper into an already divided military. And that can’t be helpful.”