A military jury acquitted Gallagher of murdering a captured Islamic State fighter, but convicted him of illegally posing with the detainee’s corpse; Lucas Tomlinson reports from the Pentagon.
The Navy SEALs who served beside Special Operations Chief Eddie Gallagher described their platoon leader as "toxic," "freaking evil" and a "psychopath," in new video recordings obtained by The New York Times.
The recordings are part of the Navy's investigation into Gallagher, who was accused of war crimes stemming from a 2017 deployment to Iraq. Gallagher in July was found not guilty of murder and premeditated murder but was convicted of a lesser charge of posing for a photo with an Islamic State (ISIS) fighter's corpse.
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In one of the recordings, Special Operator 1st Class Craig Miller, one of the most experienced SEALs in the group, can be seen weeping.
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"The guy is freaking evil," Miller told investigators.
In a separate interview, Special Operator 1st Class Joshua Vriens, a sniper, called Gallagher "toxic."
The platoon's medic, Special Operator 1st Class Corey Scott, described Gallagher as the type of person who was "perfectly OK with killing anybody that was moving."
The videos are the first time the public has been able to hear directly from the members of SEAL Team 7's Alpha platoon, whose damning testimony about their platoon leader was dismissed by President Trump and eventually led to the November firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over his handling of the case.
Gallagher's attorney Timothy Parlatore slammed The New York Times for selectively picking and choosing from the video recordings to make his client look bad.
"The [New York] Times show is a clear demonstration of irresponsible and knowingly false propaganda masquerading as journalism," he told Fox News on Friday.
He also took aim at the Navy lawyers.
"There were sections where the video inexplicably cut off, sections where you could hear the investigator coaching the witness in the hall, and probably the most unprofessional witness interview technique that any of us have ever seen," he said, adding: "The interviews really provided us with a clear road map to the acquittal."
During Gallagher's trial over the summer, a key witness for the prosecution – another Navy SEAL — testified to killing the ISIS captive but said he saw Gallagher plunge his knife into the man's neck. Other members of his platoon struck down claims that Gallagher was a hero who was unfairly punished for making "tough calls." Instead, they painted him as a "disgraceful" leader who took pleasure in targeting women, children and the elderly.
There had been debate on whether the Navy would strip Gallagher of his Trident pin, ousting him from the prestigious SEALs after he was demoted from chief petty officer to a 1st class petty officer following his July conviction.
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His case caught the attention of President Trump, who demanded Gallagher's rank be restored and ordered that the Navy halt its internal review of Gallagher's actions that resulted in the high-profile war crimes case.
Spencer asked Trump to let the Navy review board go forward with its internal investigation, promising that the board would, in the end, allow Gallagher to keep his Trident and rank, effectively alluding to his willingness to fix the results of the board usually comprised of the defendant's peers. Trump, though, rejected the offer and said, "No, we're done."
Trump then fired off a series of tweets doubling down on his demands to halt the peer review.
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Secretary of Defense Mark Esper ordered that Gallagher be allowed to keep his Trident pin, noting that it would be nearly impossible for him to get a fair hearing from the military in light of the events that had unfolded.
Gallagher enlisted in the Navy in 1999. He served a medic and in 2005 completed the Basic Underwater Demolition course to become a Navy SEAL, one of the most elite special operations forces in the U.S. military. He served eight tours and was highly decorated, including being awarded two Bronze Stars with V for valor. He was arrested in September 2018 while receiving treatment for a traumatic brain injury at Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base north of San Diego.
Trump initially took interest in the Gallagher case after Bernard Kerick, a former business partner of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, became an advocate for the family and made television appearances on behalf of Gallagher. In the spring, Gallagher shuffled his defense team to include Marc Mukasey, a lawyer for Trump's real estate company.
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Over the weekend, Gallagher met with the president and first lady Melania Trump at Mar-a-Lago, the president's resort in Palm Beach, Fla. Photos captured the 40-year-old and his wife, Andrea, chatting with the first family.
In the Instagram post shared on their joint account, they said: "Finally got to thank the President and his amazing wife by giving them a little gift from Eddie's deployment to Mosul."
Fox News' Melissa Leon, Vandana Rambaran and Andrew O'Reilly, contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.