Just days after President Donald Trump hosted former Navy SEAL and convicted war criminal Eddie Gallagher at his Mar-a-Lago residence, video recordings obtained by the New York Times showed Gallagher's subordinates describing their platoon leader as "freaking evil" and a cold-blooded murderer who "just wants to kill anybody he can."
"You could tell he was perfectly okay with killing anybody that was moving," Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a medic in the platoon, told Navy officials in 2018 as they investigated Gallagher's conduct during a 2017 tour of duty in Iraq.
"President Trump pardoned a serial killer."
—Scott Bixby, The Daily Beast
"The guy was toxic," said Special Operator First Class Joshua Vriens, a sniper.
Gallagher has been accused by his fellow Navy SEALs of an array of war crimes, from spraying civilian neighborhoods with rockets to shooting a young Iraqi girl in the stomach with a sniper rifle. The Times reported Friday that Gallagher's platoon members said he would boast that "burqas were flying."
In July, Gallagher was convicted by a military jury of posing with the corpse of an ISIS fighter but acquitted of stabbing a 15-year-old captive to death. As the Times notes, "Crucially, one SEAL who had accused the chief during the investigation—Special Operator Scott—changed his story on the witness stand, testifying that he and not Chief Gallagher had caused the captive's death."
Sparking outrage from activists and some military officials, Trump—who repeatedly intervened in the Navy SEAL's case—pardoned Gallagher and other soldiers in November. Trump also reversed Gallagher's demotion, allowing the now-retired Navy SEAL to collect an additional $200,000 pension he would have forfeited.
This past weekend, Trump welcomed Gallagher to his Mar-a-Lago resort, where the former SEAL thanked Trump with an unspecified "gift" from his Iraq deployment.
According to the New York Times, which obtained a trove of evidence from the Navy's investigation into Gallagher, "platoon members said they saw Chief Gallagher shoot civilians and fatally stab a wounded captive with a hunting knife."
The Times continued:
Video from a SEAL's helmet camera, included in the trove of materials, shows the barely conscious captive—a teenage Islamic State fighter so thin that his watch slid easily up and down his arm—being brought in to the platoon one day in May 2017. Then the helmet camera is shut off.
In the video interviews with investigators, three SEALs said they saw Chief Gallagher go on to stab the sedated captive for no reason, and then hold an impromptu re-enlistment ceremony over the body, as if it were a trophy.
"I was listening to it, and I was just thinking, like, this is the most disgraceful thing I've ever seen in my life," Special Operator Miller, who has since been promoted to chief, told investigators.
Critics said the testimony of the SEAL platoon makes Trump's widely condemned decision to pardon Gallagher even more appalling.
"President Trump pardoned a serial killer," tweeted Daily Beast reporter Scott Bixby.