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Navy can proceed with disciplinary plans against Gallagher despite Trump tweet

The Navy can proceed with plans to expel a commando accused of war crimes from the Navy SEALs, despite a tweet from President Trump on Thursday suggesting he would intervene in the case, CBS News' David Martin reports. Mr. Trump had already reversed the demotion of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, after Gallagher was convicted of a charge of discrediting the military by posing for photos with the body of a dead captive.

CBS News has learned the Navy has checked with the White House and has been told it can proceed with the review board despite the president's tweet.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told reporters on Saturday that he would need a formal order to act, and he did not interpret Mr. Trump's tweet as a "formal order."

"If the president requests to stop the process, the process stops," Spencer said. "Good order and discipline is also obeying orders from the president of the United States."  

The Navy's disciplinary plans for Gallagher were first reported by The New York Times.

After Mr. Trump interfered to reverse Gallagher's demotion, he tweeted on Thursday the pin that signifies Gallagher's membership in the SEALs should not be taken away.

"The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher's Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!" Mr. Trump wrote.

Mr. Trump's tweet comes after CBS News reported last week that the top Navy SEAL, Rear Admiral Collin Green, was going to notify Gallagher and three other officers that their case is being sent to a review board which could end in their expulsion from the SEALs.

Both Green and Spencer denied reports that they had threatened to resign. 

"Contrary to popular belief, I am still here. I did not threaten to resign," Green said on Saturday.

The president's restoration of Gallagher's rank and clemency toward two other former Army soldiers, was welcomed by many conservatives but questioned by critics like former Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey. Dempsey tweeted in May that without evidence proving the innocence of or injustice against the accused service members, their "wholesale pardon...signals our troops and allies we don't take the Law of Armed Conflict seriously." He called it an "abdication of moral responsibility."

Although the decision to send the SEALs' cases to the review board was taken by Green, who is the head of the Navy Special Warfare Command, it has the backing of both the secretary of the Navy and the chief of Naval Operations, a Navy officer told CBS News. The officer explained this is an administrative action which was not affected by the president's legal action last week. 

The other three officers whose cases are set to be reviewed are Lieutenant Commander Robert Breisch, who was the troop commander; Lieutenant Jacob Portier, who was the platoon officer in charge and reported to Breisch; and Lieutenant Thomas MacNeil, who was the platoon assistant officer in charge.  

Gallagher was accused of war crimes charges included shooting civilians, murdering a captured ISIS fighter with a hunting knife and threatening to kill SEALs who reported to him. He was acquitted of these charges in his court martial, but was convicted of the lesser charge of posing with the corpse. 

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