An attorney for Navy SEAL chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher also represents the Trump Organization, CNN has learned, just days after reports surfaced indicating the President is considering pardoning Gallagher of charges that could constitute war crimes.
Gallagher faces a slew of accusations connected to violations of military law while he was deployed to the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2017, including premeditated murder in the stabbing death of an injured person in Iraq. He has pleaded not guilty.
Trump Organization lawyer Marc Mukasey started working on the case in recent months, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, a former business partner of Trump ally and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, also is helping with Gallagher’s case. Kerik, who once served three years in federal prison for charges including tax fraud and lying to officials, was nominated as homeland security secretary by President George W. Bush but withdrew from consideration due to potential tax violations.
He has regularly appeared on Fox News as a surrogate for the President.
Lead defense attorney Tim Parlatore confirmed Wednesday that Mukasey, who is also involved in legal efforts to block House lawmakers from accessing President Donald Trump’s financial records, is “one of the attorneys on Chief Gallagher’s team.”
Kerik has been working with Gallagher’s lawyers for “two to three months” as a strategist and investigator, one of the sources familiar with the situation said.
Parlatore previously represented Fox News host Pete Hegseth, who has privately encouraged the President to pardon some United States servicemen accused of war crimes, including Gallagher, a person familiar with the conversations told CNN on Tuesday.
Hegseth has not publicly disclosed his efforts to help the servicemen, despite discussing their cases on his show “Fox & Friends.” The Daily Beast was first to report the news of Hegseth’s efforts.
“I have represented him in the past,” Parlatore said of the Fox host, adding that he is not currently involved in any active cases for Hegseth and that his ties to the Fox News host had nothing to do with him joining Gallagher’s legal team.
“I was recommended to this case by Commissioner Kerik,” Parlatore added, speaking to reporters in San Diego. Gallagher “brought us in to … provide a more aggressive defense.”
Parlatore said he does not have an issue with Hegseth using his platform to encourage the President to pardon Gallagher.
“If he wants to lobby the President for what he thinks is right, that’s his prerogative. I didn’t ask him and if he’s doing that, I don’t have a problem with it,” he said.
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.
Speaking to CNN on Thursday, Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, said she didn’t know who Mukasey and Kerik were before they joined the team and was unsure how exactly they ended up becoming part of it. She said she thought someone involved in the case met Kerik at an event and thought his experience with the law would be helpful.
“He was more of an advising role to our family,” she said. Mukasey, she added, has a “supporting role, he’s not our lead lawyer, he’s not our main lawyer.”
But it seems Kerik has had a hand in shaping Gallagher’s defense team behind the scenes.
In addition to recommending Parlatore for the role of lead attorney, Kerik helped facilitate Mukasey’s hiring after he expressed interest in becoming involved in the case, according to the source with knowledge of the situation.
Mukasey and other members of the defense team have not discussed Gallagher’s case directly with the President or asked for a pardon, according to Parlatore. But he also insisted that it would be well within Trump’s rights to get involved should he choose to do so.
“We have not asked the President to get involved … We haven’t had any communications,” he said. “If the President chooses to act it will be on his own.”
“The President has the power to pardon anybody either before or after a conviction,” Parlatore added.
That authority would allow Trump to intervene if he decides that the merits and evidence of the case suggest “it should never have gone forward to begin with” and “should end,” he said.
Trump’s interest in the possible pardons was first reported by The New York Times, which also said the Trump administration had made requests for expedited pardon paperwork for a group of Marine Corps snipers accused of urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters.
The newspaper said the administration had requested the process be complete by Memorial Day in time for a presidential announcement.
The Justice Department pardon office asked the US military for case files for at least two US service members accused of premeditated murder, including Gallagher and Army Maj. Matt Golsteyn, three US officials told CNN on Tuesday.
Golsteyn divulged his role in the killing of a bomb maker in Afghanistan during a job interview with the CIA and subsequently in a Fox News interview. The Army says the killing was premeditated, and Golsteyn is set to stand trial.
Gallagher’s case has been championed by dozens of members of Congress, including some of Trump’s staunchest supporters in the House of Representatives. In March, Trump discussed the matter with Rep. Ralph Norman, a South Carolina Republican, who tweeted about their conversation afterward.
Trump himself later tweeted that Gallagher would be moved to less restrictive confinement — “In honor of his past service to our Country,” he wrote — adding Norman’s Twitter handle and the handle of the morning television show “Fox and Friends,” which has covered the matter extensively.
Last week, another Republican lawmaker, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, said he was planning to ask the President to pardon Gallagher if he is found guilty, citing new combat footage from a helmet camera.
Hunter’s office said on Monday that the congressman hadn’t spoken to Trump about a pardon for Gallagher, but “is hopeful that President Trump does take this action, it certainly is warranted.”