Naval Investigator Grilled in War Crimes Trial of Navy SEAL

Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, left, hugs his wife, Andrea Gallagher, after leaving a military courtroom on Naval Base San Diego, Thursday, May 30, 2019, in San Diego. (AP Photo/ Julie Watson)

SAN DIEGO (CN) – One of President Donald Trump’s personal attorneys, tapped by Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward R. Gallagher to defend him in a war crimes court-martial, questioned the Navy’s lead agent in charge of the criminal investigation as the prosecution rested Tuesday.

Trump attorney Marc Mukasey questioned Naval Criminal Investigative Service Special Agent Joe Warpinski for hours Tuesday morning, attempting to poke holes in the investigator’s first case involving a death in a foreign country.

Gallagher faces seven charges of premeditated murder and other war crimes stemming from his deployment with the Alpha Platoon Navy SEAL team to Mosul, Iraq, in 2017.

Last week, Gallagher’s teammates testified he stabbed a wounded adolescent Islamic State fighter who had been brought back to their compound as a prisoner by members of the Iraqi Emergency Response Division.

But SEAL medic Corey Scott claimed in bombshell testimony last Thursday that he saw Gallagher stab the wounded fighter but he, not Gallagher, killed the boy by plugging a breathing tube with his thumb, asphyxiating the teen.

Gallagher’s attorneys and supporters claim his teammates conspired against him once they returned from deployment in August 2017 because Gallagher had “benched them” – taken them out of the line of duty.

A complaint about Gallagher’s alleged stabbing of the IS fighter and claims he had shot and hit an unarmed elderly Iraqi man and shot into crowds of people and at women were not made until April 2018, about 11 months after the stabbing incident.

Mukasey asked Warpinski multiple questions about best practices NCIS investigators use to “discover the truth,” before embarking on a rapid-fire line of questioning – frequently raising his voice and interrupting Warpinski before the agent could fully respond to his questions.

Zeroing in on the lack of physical evidence in the court-martial – including the body of the dead IS solider, which Mukasey called the “single most important piece of evidence – Mukasey poked holes in an investigation built entirely on testimonial evidence and “the words that come out of people’s mouths when you interview them.”

“I’m not attacking you, I’m asking about standard NCIS policy,” Mukasey told Warpinski when he questioned the special agent about maintaining a “professional distance” with witnesses in a case.

“There’s a fine line to make them trust you while being professional,” Warpinski said.

Warpinski exchanged hundreds of text messages with Gallagher’s SEAL teammates, who were cooperating with NCIS investigators and providing information. He also told SEAL Dylan Dille his view of the case was “black and white” 48 hours after the case was referred to him.

Mukasey questioned why Warpinski had never read the members of Gallagher’s their Article 31 rights – the military equivalent of Miranda rights – before interviewing them. The court-martial rights are read to military members who may be suspected of crimes.

Warpinski said he had no reason to believe any of the other SEALs he interviewed, including Chief Special Warfare Operator Craig Miller, had done anything wrong.

“You’re going after one guy and one guy only. It’s not a search for the truth here,” Mukasey said.

He also asked whether Warpinski knew what Miller’s “agenda” was, whether Warpinski knew if Miller was lying to him and whether Miller “wanted to frame Eddie Gallagher.”

At one point during questioning, Mukasey attempted to demand Warpinski make eye contact with him rather than looking at the jurors, disparaging the “fake” trial proceedings Warpinski had practiced during his law enforcement training.

Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh sustained a relevance objection by the prosecution team to Mukasey’s demand.

Mukasey also questioned the integrity of Warpinski’s reports on the case, pointing out a comment made by one of the SEALs in a transcript of his interview was different than what was included in Warpinski’s report.

The SEAL said if the events the day the IS solider died at their compound were caught on camera, “It might show Navy SEALs doing fucked-up shit.”

But Warpinski’s report, which Mukasey said was “twisted to screw Eddie Gallagher,” said the SEAL had said, “If the actions of Chief Gallagher had been caught on camera, it would be bad for the SEAL community.”

Mukasey also questioned the affidavit prepared by Warpinski that was considered by a federal judge who issued a search warrant of Gallagher’s home last year.

He suggested Warpinski “lied” that Miller had testified the cause of death of the IS solider was from being stabbed by Gallagher when Warpinski had never asked Miller directly what the cause of death was.

The prosecution rested their case Tuesday afternoon. Gallagher’s defense team will begin their case Wednesday. The trial is expected to last through next week.

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