Defense Secretary Mark Esper dismissed Navy Secretary Richard Spencer for talking to the White House about a deal in which Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher retired with his full rank and without losing his cherish Trident pin.
Esper requested Spencer’s resign on Sunday after learning that the Navy secretary had privately proposed to White House officials that he would ensure that Gallagher, who was accused of war crimes, was able to retire as a Navy SEAL with his Trident insignia if they did not interfere with proceedings against him.
Spencer reportedly did not share the details of the proposal with Esper, who found out on Friday when he spoke with President Trump, and his private offer contradicted his public position on Gallagher’s case. In a statement from chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman, Esper said he was “deeply troubled by this conduct” from Spencer.
“Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position,” Esper said. “I wish Richard well.”
Spencer’s proposal for the White House followed the president’s interventionon Nov. 15 to clear three military members accused or convicted of war crimes, including Gallagher. Gallagher was acquitted over the summer of murder charges stemming from his 2017 deployment to Iraq, but was found guilty of taking a photo with the corpse of an ISIS fighter he was accused of killing and was demoted one rank.
The president’s move, however, restored his rank. The Navy had been considering further disciplining Gallagher by stripping him of his SEAL Trident, which Trump publicly opposed in a Thursday tweet. On Friday, however, the Navy received guidance that it could proceed with expelling Gallagher without another intervention from the president.
Esper, on the other hand, has decided to let Gallagher keep it, according to Hoffman. In a Sunday morning interview with Fox & Friends, Gallagher accused Spencer of “meddling in his case.”
Spencer was rumored to be considering resigning over Trump’s interference in the case, but he has denied the reports. His resignation Sunday, however, marks the end of his two-year tenure as Secretary of the Navy. Prior to that, he was acting U.S. Secretary of Defense and acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense.
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