“It’s like someone wanted a notch on their belt: They took down a SEAL,” Robert O’Neill told the Washington Times. “They were looking to advance their own agenda.”
The Navy started proceedings last week that could have led to the removal of Gallagher from the SEALs, prompting Trump to intervene again in the case and state Gallagher wouldn’t lose his Trident pin.
A military court acquitted Gallagher of murder earlier this year but sentenced to him to a demotion. Trump later ordered the Navy to restore Gallagher to the rank of chief petty officer.
O’Neill said he feels Gallagher should be allowed to retire with his current rank and with the Trident pin, or as a SEAL.
“He’s a great guy. He’s a poster image of what a SEAL should be,” O’Neill said. “I’d go to war with him tomorrow.”
Dismissing accusations that Gallagher committed illegal killings while in combat, O’Neill said that Gallagher was a tough leader.
“I heard a lot of the younger guys thought he worked them too hard. They had a different work ethic,” O’Neill said. “And they weren’t quite ready for the reality of war.”
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer was ousted over the weekend, saying he acknowledged his “termination” after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper asked him to resign after learning Spencer tried negotiating with the White House in the Gallagher case even while presenting a different portrayal of what was happening in public.
“This proposal was completely contrary to what we agreed to and contrary to Secretary Spencer’s public position,” Esper told reporters on Monday, adding he and Joint Chiefs of Staff head Gen. Mark Milley “were completely caught off guard by this information and realized that it had undermined everything we had been discussing with the president.”
Military leaders have said the Gallagher case won’t move forward in light of the events that unfolded.
“I think at this point the secretary of defense has made decisions (and) the case is now, in my view, it is closed,” Milley said at the press conference.
“The secretary of defense, President of the United States, are all part of the process and made a decision, as far as I’m concerned, it is case closed now and it is time to move on and address the national security of the United States.”
Trump on Sunday said he wanted Gallagher to “retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned, including his Trident Pin.”