Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has likened his own behavior in the U.S. Marines to that of a Navy SEAL facing trial for war crimes in an apparent attempt to downplay the seriousness of the charges.
The Republican lawmaker, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, defended Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher at a forum in San Diego County on Saturday, specifically an allegation that Gallagher posed with the body of an unarmed teenager he killed in Iraq, the Times of San Diego reported.
“Eddie did one bad thing that I’m guilty of too: taking a picture of the body and saying something stupid,” Hunter told his audience.
“A lot of my peers … have done the exact same thing,” he argued. Hunter noted that he never circulated a photo he took.
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Gallagher is set to go on trial in June for murder charges, one of them being for allegedly stabbing an Islamic State prisoner to death in 2017. He allegedly then texted a photo of him posing with the body to another SEAL, stating: “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”
He is also accused of gunning down an unarmed elderly man and a school-age girl from a sniper’s roost. He allegedly bragged about racking up civilian kills and threatened to kill members of his SEAL team if they reported him. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Hunter, in an op-ed published Friday, called for a presidential pardon of Gallagher, asserting that the Navy SEAL will not receive a fair trial because of public scrutiny and an argument by Gallagher’s defense attorney that the Navy has released misleading details about the case.
President Donald Trump has been mulling potential pardons of Gallagher and several other service members accused of war crimes after requesting background paperwork on them ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, The New York Times first reported.
The proposal has been met with heavy criticism, however, including from veterans and politicians from both major political parties. Trump later said he may revisit the pardoning at another time, telling reporters on Friday: “It’s a little bit controversial.”