Dec 1, 2019

Military officials say Trump's SEAL interventions embolden war criminals

Trump speaks to U.S. troops during a Thanksgiving day visit at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 28. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's interference in Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher's war crimes case has military officials worried that trust between the president and armed forces has been upended, according to the New York Times.

What they're saying: Chris Shumake, a former sniper who served in Gallagher’s platoon, said in an interview with the Times that Gallagher's case has "blown up bigger than any of us could have ever expected, and turned into a national clown show that put a bad light on the teams. [Trump's] trying to show he has the troops’ backs, but he’s saying he doesn’t trust any of the troops or their leaders to make the right decisions.”

  • Peter Feaver, a specialist on civilian-military relations at Duke University and a former aide to President George W. Bush., said Trump is "interfering with the chain of command, which is trying to police its own ranks."
  • "They’re trying to clean up their act and in the middle of it the president parachutes in — and not from information from his own commanders but from news talking heads who are clearly gaming the system."

Context: Gallagher was accused of fatally stabbing a wounded Islamic State fighter and posing with the corpse for a picture while in Iraq in 2017. A military jury acquitted him on the murder charge but convicted him for the photograph.

  • A Navy SEAL review board had been scheduled to convene on Dec. 2 to decide whether Gallagher should be allowed to retain his status as a SEAL, but Trump intervened in the case and ordered Defense Secretary Mark Esper to stop the review process.

The backdrop: The Times reports that before deploying to Iraq in 2017, Gallagher sent a text to the SEAL master chief saying he was willing to go anywhere: “We don’t care about living conditions. We just want to kill as many people as possible," he said.

  • The Times reports that Gallagher had a former SEAL make him a hunting knife and a hatchet and vowed in a text to "dig that knife or hatchet on someone’s skull!” Several SEALs reportedly told investigators that they saw him taking narcotics.
  • In 2010, Gallagher was accused of deliberately shooting an Afghan girl to hit the man who was carrying her. In 2014, he was accused of trying to run over a Navy police officer. Investigators in both cases found no wrongdoing.
  • By the end of his deployment, however, the Times reports that Gallagher was largely isolated from his platoon and had earned a private nickname among other SEALs: "El diablo."

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The wreckage of summer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.