Hunter, R-Calif., screened combat footage collected from a helmet camera to a group of lawmakers Wednesday, saying the footage exonerates Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of one of the charges against him.
“I wanted to give them an opportunity firsthand to see there is no case,” Hunter told a small group of reporters after the screening. He said he believes Gallagher is innocent and a war hero and admonished the military justice system, calling it “absolutely broken” and “rigged.”
"I don't trust the Navy to give him a fair trial, but I think with all of the focus on this case that he stands more of a chance of getting a fair trial now," Hunter said.
Gallagher is accused of killing a teenage Islamic State fighter under his care and then holding his reenlistment ceremony with the corpse. Navy prosecutors also accuse Gallagher of shooting two civilians in Iraq and opening fire on crowds. Gallagher has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
His lawyers have said he did not murder anyone and that disgruntled SEALs made the accusations because they wanted to get rid of a demanding platoon leader. His trial is set for May 28 at Naval Base San Diego.
Members of Congress have previously issued statements on Gallagher’s behalf. In March, 40 lawmakers signed a letter urging the Navy to free Gallagher pending trial. Soon after, Trump announced on Twitter that Gallagher would be moved to “less restrictive confinement.”
Trump has already used his pardon power in a military case, pardoning on Monday a former U.S. soldier convicted in 2009 of killing an Iraqi prisoner. Former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone after killing a suspected al-Qaida terrorist in Iraq.
A military court had sentenced Behenna to 25 years in prison. He was paroled in 2014 and had been scheduled to remain on parole until 2024.
Hunter, who represents a district in San Diego County and was an early Trump supporter in the 2016 presidential campaign, is himself facing federal corruption charges involving the personal use of campaign money. The congressman and his wife pleaded not guilty last year to a 60-count indictment alleging they spent more than $250,000 in campaign finance funds on family trips, tequila shots, Costco shopping sprees and other items. He won re-election despite the charges.
Hunter’s trial is scheduled for September.