Over the weekend, President Trump hosted disgraced former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher at his residence in Mar-a-Lago. According to photos posted on Instagram, Gallagher and his wife Andrea met with the president, along with First Lady Melania Trump, and presented him with a gift from his deployment in Mosul, Iraq. It’s not clear what the gift was.
Gallagher certainly owes Trump some gratitude. In 2018, based on the testimony of members of his unit, the platoon chief was charged with stabbing an unarmed teenage ISIS prisoner, posing for a photo with his corpse, and shooting random Iraqi civilians including an old man and a young girl. He denied the charges. After Gallagher’s case was taken up by several of Trump’s allies in Congress and Fox News commentators, Trump repeatedly intervened in the trial.
The president lambasted the prosecution, and ordered that Gallagher be moved from pretrial detention to house arrest. Gallagher was acquitted of most of the charges after a bizarre trial which included surprise testimony from a key witness who, after being granted immunity from prosecution, said he had been the one to kill the teenager. Gallagher was convicted of posing for a photo with the detainee’s corpse and sentenced to time served. Trump then reversed a decision to demote Gallagher after the conviction and prevented the Navy from removing his Trident pin, a badge of honor for the elite SEALs. Navy secretary Richard Spencer objected to the special treatment of Gallagher and was subsequently asked to resign last month.
Gallagher appears well on the way to a second career on the right-wing celebrity circuit if he wants it. He and his wife were in Florida to attend a summit hosted by the right-wing student group, Turning Point USA. In another Instagram photo, Gallagher poses with Donald Trump Jr. at the event.
Gallagher isn’t the only accused war criminal with Trump’s sympathies. In November, Trump also pardoned Clint Lorance, who was convicted of killing civilians and Matthew Golsteyn, who faced charges of killing an unarmed Afghan man he believed was a bomb maker.
While some of the advocates for these men have objected to their prosecutions on procedural or evidence-based grounds, suggesting that they didn’t actually commit these crimes, Trump has made clear he doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with the actions what they were accused of, tweeting, for instance, that they were trained to be “killing machines” and then unfairly prosecuted for killing.
Not only does he believe there is nothing to punish, but also celebrates them as heroes. Trump brought Golsteyn and Lorance onstage at a fundraiser in Florida last month shortly after pardoning them, and Gallagher is all but guaranteed to show up on the campaign trail. Cold-blooded killing seems to be a new favorite theme for the Trump campaign.