You might expect alleged war crimes to be a point of partisan alignment in the United States, where both major political parties can come together over the seriousness of getting to the bottom of the issue — but that hasn’t happened. Republicans up to President Donald Trump himself continue to stump for Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who has been charged with murder and attempted murder and this past week, had the case against him upheld despite the dismissal of a prosecutor and Republicans’ best efforts to cast him as a martyr.
Gallagher’s case had been roiled by the revelation that the now former chief prosecutor handling it had been tracking emails sent to his defense team without any perceived appropriate approval. Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak had launched the operation in an attempt to find out where leaks associated with the case were coming from — which ironically, the government says wasn’t even successful.
On the flip side though, the case’s judge Capt. Aaron Rugh ruled that Czaplak’s actions had placed undue strain on the defense, and besides removing him from the case, also lowered the maximum possible sentence Gallagher can face. Where previously that sentence was life in prison without the possibility of parole, Gallagher could now have the option for parole. Gallagher’s team had been hoping for the entire case to be thrown out over Czaplak’s conduct.
Gallagher’s alleged crimes include the murder of an injured teenage captive, whose corpse he then posed next to and even had a re-enlistment ceremony by. Gallagher is also accused of shooting at random civilians while overseas, and his targets were apparently clearly hit although it’s unclear what actually ultimately happened to them.
Republicans have sought to defend Gallagher by painting his actions as within a norm. California Congressman Duncan Hunter, for example, has bragged about his overseas team in the military having themselves racked up civilian kills — as if that’s supposed to reassure observers that those on the Gallagher side are anything other than unhinged. Trump, meanwhile, got Gallagher moved to “less restrictive confinement” and went so far as to explore pardoning the alleged war criminal along with others who have been accused of similar crimes, but he decided to hold off for now, waiting for Gallagher’s trial to proceed.
Even still, Trump dismissed the significance of Gallagher’s alleged crimes in conversation with reporters, sharing:
‘We teach them how to be great fighters, and then when they fight sometimes they get really treated very unfairly.’
That trial had been set to begin on Monday but has been pushed back a week to June 17 in light of developments surrounding the email tracking, which also sparked the accused getting temporarily released from custody altogether. Gallagher has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him, claiming they’re made up. Notably enough, one of his lawyers has also done work for President Trump, which really just adds insult to injury at this point over the haphazard way in which the White House and those on the right have handled this case.
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