Abuse of Power

The way the impeachment hearings are going, it appears likely that the House of Representatives will impeach Trump on a largely party-line vote, and the Senate will refuse to convict him of the charges, and 35-40% of the electorate will declare their boy vindicated. As Trump himself declared years ago, he could kill someone and get away with it, and his supporters are so angry with the “elite establishment” that they will excuse any and all abuses of power on his part.

Trump’s latest abuse, however, is another, and different, example of the unraveling of law, order, and the structure of government. Navy Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher was acquitted of murder in the stabbing death of an Islamic State militant captive but convicted of posing with the corpse while in Iraq. As a result of the court martial, Gallagher was demoted from chief petty officer to a first class petty officer. Trump unilaterally overruled the judicial proceeding and restored Gallagher’s rank this month.

Gallagher also faced a Naval SEAL review board to determine whether he should remain in the elite force. Trump then tweeted that he would not allow the Navy to strip Gallagher of his SEAL status. In response, the Secretary of the Navy declared that a tweet was not an order. Abruptly, the Secretary of Defense requested the resignation of the Navy Secretary and stated that Gallagher would be allowed to retire almost immediately as a chief petty officer and as a SEAL, exactly what Trump wanted.

Speaking as a former Naval officer, I’m quite confident that Gallagher was guilty as charged, and quite possibly in fact did some of what he was charged with and acquitted of. Senior military officers are incredibly reluctant to bring charges against service members, especially members of elite units, unless the evidence is overwhelmingly convincing.

But not only did Trump interfere in the Gallagher case, but he also pardoned Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, convicted of second degree murder in the death of three Afghans and Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, who faced murder charges for a similar crime.

Former Marine Corps Commandant, retired General Charles Krulak, stated that Trump’s actions amounted to circumventing the military legal system and that the president’s intervention “relinquishes the United States’ moral high ground. Disregard for the law undermines our national security by reducing combat effectiveness, increasing the risks to our troops, hindering cooperation with allies, alienating populations whose support the United States needs in the struggle against terrorism, and providing a propaganda tool for extremists who wish to do us harm.” [Military Times, 11/21/2019]

Trump’s interference in the military justice system for a political end is just another example of how Trump will trash anything, including the law, that interferes with his desires and political ambitions. Interfering in the workings of the law, whether military or civilian, is definitely a high crime, but I doubt that Republicans will see it that way, although I am certain that, had Barrack Obama done something like that, he would have been impeached in a Republican minute.

What ever happened to that Republican emphasis on law and order? Or does it only apply to women and minorities?

15 thoughts on “Abuse of Power”

  1. Wine Guy says:

    9.5 years experience as a USN officer here –

    SECDEF dropped the ball and the SECNAV was punished because he was correct (forgiveness for being wrong is common; for being right is unforgivable). The JCS is being very quiet publically – I hope that privately they are working on the issue because Krulak is right: this will directly undermine the relationships that the US military has with the countries in which we have bases. The locals all know that the base CO will come down like the wrath of God any sailor, airman, soldier, or marine who causes problems with the locals, on or off base. Local law enforcement may be much less likely to turn over GIs to the Shore Patrol if they are concerned that the UCMJ doesn’t mean what it used to… and Americans in foreign courts…. that’s an ugly, ugly picture.

  2. Jeff says:

    I have often wondered if we, as a nation, are reaping the fruit of not holding Clinton more accountable for his abuse of power. Had some of the Democrats spoken out about how, to engage in sex acts with someone below him was an abuse, would the Republicans now be more willing to see how Trump’s abuse (which affects not just one young woman, but the whole nation) is worthy of impeachment… How do we get out of this partisan mess we’re in…

    On that note, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Grey says:

      Fun fact: An ‘abuse of power’ article of impeachment against President Clinton was rejected by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority – 81 Republicans in the House voted against it.

      (Also, no, I don’t think there is a case to be made that failure to successfully impeach Clinton over lying about an affair led to our current partisan situation. deadlock. That partisan situation was already in existence, festering since the early 90’s, and led to, well, Clinton being impeached after an off-the-rails partisan special counsel got him to lie about an affair.)

      1. Tom says:

        On the other hand should we not,as a nation, require best ethical and personal behavior from our President and other representatives of our nation? If so, then Clinton’s behavior (whether or not he lied about it) should have been impeachable.

        1. Grey says:

          Our constitution however only allows impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors”, not for being amoral or a jerk.

  3. Tom says:

    Americans will still not answer to courts outside of the US because of our defiance of all courts and judicial proceedings outside of our control e.g. International Court of Justice.

    1. Wine Guy says:

      If the countries in question do not turn over lawfully detained US GIs to US military authorities, what choice will the US have? Especially if the officials of that country want to score points with our enemies and the neutrals… and are willing to put up with US posturing about ‘getting our boys back.’

      AND this makes it even harder on civilian travellers and the families of GIs living out in the local economies – and they do NOT have such protection as a service member would enjoy.

      1. Tom says:

        True. However look at the abject cringing that Trump is still getting in response to his international dealings. Having a large economy, with corporations (that will respond to sanctions) in all countries, projects the reality of a lot of power. The US still gets what it asks.

        1. Wine Guy says:

          Yes it does. And not to be too melodramatic about it… it does for now.

          I don’t really want to see what would happen if that power migrates to China (witness Hong Kong in real time) or Russia (which remains a kleptocracy in all but name).

          1. Tom says:

            Putin’s narrow view and the lack of economic clout means a focus on annexations.

            China: via investments in Africa, Oceania and South America (forget Monroe) is more likely to be in a position to use economic blackmail (which is my view of sanctions). However Xi may be hauled in by the Central Committee ( for “corruption ” of course).


  4. Mike Strong says:

    Gallagher had already been incarcerated for 9 months some of which was solitary confinement. In addition his family was hassled and his children were forced to leave his home in their pajamas. He was acquitted of 6 of 7 charges and only convicted on the least serious charge. The military prosecutor was removed by the judge for misconduct in that he was spying on the defense team. The problem here was that the Brass was looking to punish Gallegher but didn’t get their desired result from the court martial. Like petulant children, they then tried to hammer him with additional charges. Trump was right to reverse them.

    Now I was never in combat although my primary MOS was light weapons infantry but I’d seen enough combat veterans who came back from Vietnam totally messed up. Now days without a draft some of our troops have re-deployed to the mid-east 3 to 4 times. I can’t imagine how these troops are holding up in warfare. Going after Gallegher as harshly as the Navy tried to for his one lone offense was analogous to trying someone for DUI, losing the case and then slapping a $5000 fine for failure to signal.

    1. Gallagher stabbed a sedated and wounded teenaged ISIS captive in the neck and killed him. He may have been acquitted of most counts, but nine months of incarceration, a demotion of one rank, and possible loss of SEAL status is hardly a hard punishment for that. He was likely only convicted on the lightest count because no one wanted him to get off totally.

      1. Mike Strong says:

        Gallegher did not kill the teen. The medic admitted to that but couldn’t be tried because he was given immunity. And do his crimes justify the way his family was treated and the way the prosecution spied on his defense?

        1. Gallagher had a long history of bending and disobeying orders, including trying to run over a traffic officer, disobeying orders as a sniper, and shooting almost indiscriminately. Stop trying to glorify him. He was investigated for other shootings as well. Gallagher even boasted in a text message that he killed the ISIS teenager with his knife.

  5. Tom says:

    The media seem to have avoided describing the actual crime that Gallagher committed in the present episode of discussions – ‘photographed with the body of …’ is all I have seen. The description of the murder should make a difference to ones opinion.

    Researching discussions of “Conscription Pros and Cons” seem to bring up emotional articles. Are there rational military based Pros and Cons of conscription?

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