President Trump said Monday he intervened in the case of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher because he wants to “stick up for the warriors,” as opposed to what he characterized as the Obama administration’s leniency for deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and former soldier Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of military espionage.
“I think what I’m doing is sticking up for our armed forces,” Mr. Trump said of the Gallagher case, which led to the resignation Sunday of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. “I will stick up for the warriors.”
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mr. Trump contrasted the case of Chief Petty Officer Gallagher, who was convicted of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter in 2017, with those of Mr. Bergdahl and Manning.
“Some very unfair things were happening,” Mr. Trump said of the earlier cases. “You let Sergeant Bergdahl go. He gets a slap on the wrist. And then you have a system where these warriors [such as Petty Officer Gallagher] get put in jail for 25 years. No. We’re not going to do that.”
He referred to Manning, a trans woman who stole classified documents while serving as a man in the Army, as “a young gentleman, now a person who President Obama let go, who stole tremendous amounts of classified information. And you let that person go.”
Manning was convicted and sentenced to 35 years at Fort Leavenworth. Days before leaving office, President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to nearly seven years of confinement dating to the arrest in 2010.
Mr. Bergdahl walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban, who held him prisoner for five years before he was released in a swap for top Taliban leaders approved by the Obama administration.
A soldier shot in the head in 2009 during the search for Mr. Bergdahl died last weekend. Master Sgt. Mark Allen, 46, died due to complications from the injuries, after being left unable to speak and largely paralyzed.
“We just lost another man who went after [Mr. Bergdahl],” the president said. “And he died last week [after] going after Sergeant Bergdahl, trying to find Sergeant Bergdahl. So when you have a system that allows Sergeant Bergdahl to go, and you probably have five to six people killed — nobody even knows the number — because he left, and he gets a slap on the wrist, if that.”
Mr. Bergdahl was tried by general court-martial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He pleaded guilty in October 2017, and was sentenced to be dishonorably discharged, reduced in rank to private and fined $1,000 per month from his pay for 10 months, with no prison time.
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