- Defence Secretary Mark Esper asked for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer’s resignation on Sunday over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes in Iraq, The Washington Post reported.
- Spencer’s resignation comes after days of back-and-forth over the divisive and politically charged case of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher.
- Spencer was reportedly accused of going past Esper with a secret proposal that would allow Gallagher to keep his elite status if the White House allowed the Navy to pursue the disciplinary process – something that contradicted Spencer’s public sparring with Trump on the matter.
- Trump on Sunday evening tweeted that he was “not pleased” with the way Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy and said Esper terminated Spencer’s service.
- Trump added that Kenneth Braithwaite, the US ambassador to Norway, would be nominated to be the new Navy secretary.
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Defence Secretary Mark Esper asked for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer’s resignation on Sunday over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes in Iraq, The Washington Post reported.
Spencer’s resignation comes after days of back-and-forth over the divisive and politically charged case of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who was accused of war crimes and later acquitted of a murder charge but convicted of posing for a photo with a combatant’s corpse while in Iraq in 2017.
Spencer had publicly sparred with President Donald Trump over the Navy’s intention to consider disciplinary actions against Gallagher but on Sunday said he served at the pleasure of the commander in chief.
Esper reportedly decided to oust Spencer after learning that Spencer had privately proposed to White House officials that if they allowed the Navy to review Gallagher’s status, “Spencer would ensure that Gallagher was able to retire as a Navy SEAL, with his Trident insignia.”
Removing a Trident pin means a person will no longer be a SEAL in the elite unit but could remain in the Navy.
The chief Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said in a statement reported by The Post that Spencer’s proposal allowing Gallagher to keep his Trident pin was not shared with Esper and contradicted Spencer’s public position on the case.
“Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position,” Esper told The Post. “I wish Richard well.”
The past few days saw a flurry of mixed messages from the administration over the episode, including a Thursday tweet by Trump in which he slammed Gallagher’s case as being “handled very badly” and definitively said Gallagher would not lose his Trident pin.
Spencer on Friday said he thought proceedings against Gallagher should go forward, telling Reuters in an interview that he believed “the process matters for good order and discipline.”
“I think we have a process in place, which we’re going forward with, and that’s my job,” Spencer added.
Trump said in a tweet Sunday that Spencer had been terminated by Esper and that Kenneth Braithwaite, the US ambassador to Norway, would be nominated to take his place.
“I was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy,” Trump said in a series of tweets on Sunday.
“Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defence Mark Esper. I thank Richard for his service & commitment.”