San Diego, Calif. (KGTV) - Some military legal experts are raising concerns about President Donald Trump's involvement in the war crimes trial of Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher. This comes after the President ordered that medals and honors for prosecutors in the case be revoked.
"I think it's troubling," said University of San Diego Law Professor Robert Muth in an interview with 10News. "As the Commander in Chief, it would be his prerogative to weigh in if he felt there was something wrong. However, that would be done in a very different way. You would expect it to be done discreetly."
Gallagher was accused of several war crimes during a tour of duty in Iraq. The central charge was that he murdered a prisoner of war, a wounded teenage ISIS fighter. Gallagher was acquitted of that charge. The case drew national attention, including from President Trump, who suggested that Gallagher was a hero who was being treated unfairly. Several people criticized how the JAG prosecutors handled the case.
"President Trump saw that they were abusing their power," said John Dadian, a San Diego political strategist who also served in the Marine Corps. "Not only manacling him during the trial, but confining him to quarters, he had a hard time taling to his lawyers. That's not fair." Dadian says many military veterans believe the President did the right thing by stepping in.
Muth is worried about the President's actions setting a precedent. "The fact that the President went and used the bully pulpit, specifically his Twitter account, to essentially punch down at relatively junior folks who by law can't punch back, they just have to take it, is particularly problematic." Muth says the President's public criticism could have a chilling effect on JAG prosecutors who may feel pressured not to handle a case in the way they believe it should be handled because they feel they would be attacked by the President for political reasons. "These are folks who signed up to serve their country and are now being personally attacked by the President of the United States when they're trying to do their job. This isn't the way to do it. It's not how someone should lead. It's certainly not how the President should lead as Commander in Chief."