Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has vowed to ask President Donald Trump to pardon a Navy SEAL accused of killing a wounded ISIS fighter if the SEAL is found guilty at court-martial.
Hunter, a Marine veteran, said he is confident that Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher is innocent of charges against him, but he also believes, “The U.S. military justice system is not a fair one.”
Hunter has long been an advocate for service members whom he says are victimized by the military justice system, though he has faced legal troubles himself. Last year, he and his wife were indicted in federal court for allegedly misusing campaign funds. A trial date has been set for September.
“Eddie needs his day in court,” Hunter said Wednesday at a press conference. “I hope that he can have a fair trial. I don’t trust the Navy to give him a fair trial, but I think that with all the focus on this case, he stands more of a chance of getting a fair trial than he would have if we had not brought to light what I think are all the injustices against him.”
When Task & Purpose asked Hunter if he would ask the president to pardon Gallagher in the event that the SEAL is convicted, the congressman replied: “Absolutely.”
Hunter said he has not spoken to President Trump about the possibility of pardoning Gallagher. He also declined to speculate on what the president might do if he asked for a pardon.
“Let’s do one thing at a time,” Hunter said. “I don’t think he’s going to be found guilty unless the system is so rigged that he’s not given a fair trial.”
Hunter spoke to reporters on Wednesday after he and other lawmakers viewed helmet camera footage from the other members of Gallagher’s platoon, which purportedly shows Gallagher rendering medical aid to the wounded ISIS fighter whom he is accused of stabbing to death during the battle of Mosul in 2017.
Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), and Clay Higgins (R-La.) viewed the videos on Wednesday. Task & Purpose has not seen the footage.
“What I saw on the tape will vindicate Eddie Gallagher,” Higgins told reporters afterward. “He did what he was trained to do.”
It is unclear whether the helmet camera footage shows the ISIS fighter dying from his wounds, Higgins said.
“He was unresponsive or barely responsive,” Higgins said. “I can’t honestly say if any of these pictures or video show the actual transition from barely alive to just deceased. The videos and pictures do show the ISIS fighter alive and then deceased.”
Gallagher’s civilian attorney Timothy Parlatore told reporters that he showed lawmakers all of the relevant video and still images of the wounded ISIS fighter before, during, and after he and Gallagher were together.
“If another video exists that we haven’t seen that the prosecution is withholding, then they need to turn in their law licenses,” Parlatore said.
But Gallagher believes the Navy has already decided he is guilty, his brother Sean told reporters.
Sean Gallagher noted that the Navy took his brother out of treatment at the Camp Pendleton Intrepid Spirit Center to put him in the brig. His brother was released after eight months of pretrial custody only after Trump tweeted that he should be moved to a less restrictive environment.
“If you were to ask Eddie, he thinks they have sealed this already,” Sean Gallagher said. “He thinks that he has been pre-judged and how can you blame him, because that’s what it’s been from the beginning.”