Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer was fired by Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday after he became "deeply troubled" by Spencer's attempts to work out a private deal with the White House to help a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes to retire with his Trident pin and not be kicked out of the elite fighting force's ranks.
The row over Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher began after he was accused of various war crimes by several of his own men. Gallagher was tried and exonerated earlier this year on all but one count. After President Donald Trump commuted Gallagher's sentence, Spencer said the Navy would review Gallagher's record, which could have resulted in his expulsion. When Trump learned of the proposed review, he tweeted on Thursday that Gallagher would not face any consequences.
However, Spencer said last week that he didn't interpret a tweet as a "former order." The New York Times reported that Spencer threatened to resign if the president continued to interfere in the Navy's disciplinary process, however, Spencer denied the allegation.
Then, on Sunday, Esper fired Spencer for reportedly going behind his back, and pursuing a "sham review" of Gallagher's actions that would ultimately exonerate the Navy SEAL.
In a statement on Sunday, Spencer acknowledged his time as Navy Secretary and that he no longer shared "the same understanding with the Commander in Chief" who had appointed him.
"Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me," Spencer wrote. "In regards to the key principle of good order and discipline, I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States."
President Trump said on Twitter Sunday that he'd become displeased with the way that Gallagher's trial had been handled by the Navy and the fact that cost overruns hadn't been properly addressed.
"I was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy. He was treated very badly but, despite this, was completely exonerated on all major charges. I then restored Eddie’s rank. Likewise, large cost overruns from past administration’s contracting procedures were not addressed to my satisfaction," Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday. "Therefore, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper."
Trump went on to thank Spencer for his service and said Gallagher would retired peacefully with all his honors intact, including the Trident Pin. The president said he would nominate the current ambassador to Norway, Admiral Ken Braithwaite.
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