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Eddie Gallagher. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Navy SEAL platoon members painted a dark picture of Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, their leader who was acquitted of war crimes and had a minor charge cleared by President Trump, in leaked investigatory interview videos and text messages obtained by the New York Times.

Why it matters: The interviews, given by members of the platoon members that served under Gallagher, break the SEALs' unwritten code of silence and describe their leader as violent, "evil" and "toxic" — in contrast with Trump's portrayal of him as a hero.

What they're saying:

  • "The guy is freaking evil," Special Operator First Class Craig Miller told investigators.
  • "The guy was toxic," said Special Operator First Class Joshua Vriens, a sniper.
  • "You could tell he was perfectly okay with killing anybody that was moving," added Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a medic in the platoon.

What happened: Three SEALs told Navy investigators that they saw Gallagher stab a sedated teenage ISIS fighter to death for no apparent reason, "and then hold an impromptu re-enlistment ceremony over the body, as if it were a trophy," per the Times.

  • One SEAL said Lt. Jacob Portier, a commander in the platoon, then told the others to gather around the corpse for a photo, leaving the platoon feeling like they had no choice but to do so.

The other side: Gallagher issued a statement to the Times via his lawyer, saying, "My first reaction to seeing the videos was surprise and disgust that they would make up blatant lies about me, but I quickly realized that they were scared that the truth would come out of how cowardly they acted on deployment."

  • "I felt sorry for them that they thought it necessary to smear my name, but they never realized what the consequences of their lies would be. As upset as I was, the videos also gave me confidence because I knew that their lies would never hold up under real questioning and the jury would see through it."
  • "Their lies and NCIS' refusal to ask hard questions or corroborate their stories strengthened my resolve to go to trial and clear my name."

Go deeper: Military officials say Trump's SEAL interventions embolden war criminals

Go deeper

Updated 56 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.

Mike Allen, author of AM
6 hours ago - World

Courage vs. coddling with China

Peng Shuai of China serves during the China Open in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

The women's professional tennis tour suspended tournaments in China Wednesday out of concern for Peng Shuai, on the same day that a top business voice made excuses for Beijing.

Why it matters: Ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, some sports figures are taking on the regime — while Big Business shrinks from confrontation with the world's second-largest economy.

6 hours ago - Sports

What to know about the first MLB lockout since 1995

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Hope you enjoyed the recent flurry of free-agent activity, because it's likely the last non-lockout-related MLB news for a while.

Driving the news: The owners locked out the players after the collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight last night, leading to MLB's ninth work stoppage — and first since 1995.