The Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon Monday that his order for U.S. Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher to retain his Trident pin came directly from President Trump. “I spoke to the president on Sunday. He gave me the order that Eddie Gallagher will retain his Trident,” Esper said, adding that he considered it a formal order. Gallagher, who is accused of war crimes in Iraq, was prepared to surrender his Trident pin “for the good of the SEALs, and the president and the country,” but was later informed that he would be allowed to keep it. “The president is the commander-in-chief. He has every right, authority and privilege to do what he wants to do.”
The SEAL was acquitted by a military jury in July of murdering a captured and wounded Islamic State fighter in Iraq, but was convicted of posing with the detainee’s corpse. Trump has vehemently supported Gallagher and previously intervened in the case to restore his rank following his demotion over the conviction. “I can control what I can control,” Esper told reporters. “I’m the secretary of defense... My view is we will follow our processes. That is what we agreed to.” Esper also accused Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, whom he fired yesterday, of secretly offering to the White House to rig the Navy disciplinary process to ensure that Gallagher retains his status as a SEAL.