Pentagon: Defense Secretary Has Fired Navy Secretary for ‘Lack of Candor’ on Eddie Gallagher Case

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The Pentagon announced Sunday afternoon that Defense Secretary Mark Esper has asked Navy Secretary Richard Spencer to resign for not telling him that he had a private conversation with the White House over the taking away of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s Navy SEAL Trident pin.

“Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper has asked for the resignation of Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer after losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher,” the Pentagon’s chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement Sunday.

Trump had intervened in recent weeks to restore Gallagher’s rank, which was reduced by the Navy after he was convicted of taking a photo with a deceased Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighter.

The Navy then announced it would launch a review board to consider whether to take away Gallagher’s Trident pin, essentially kicking him out of the Navy SEALs. Trump tweeted that the Navy would do no such thing, but Spencer said it would proceed until receiving an official order from the president, which he would follow.

The Pentagon said in its statement that after Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke with President Trump on Friday regarding Gallagher’s case, Esper learned that “Spencer had previously and privately proposed to the White House — contrary to Spencer’s public position — to restore Gallagher’s rank and allow him to retire with his Trident pin.”

“When recently asked by Secretary Esper, Secretary Spencer confirmed that despite multiple conversations on the Gallagher matter, Secretary Esper was never informed by Secretary Spencer of his private proposal,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman also announced that Esper has directed that Gallagher retain his Trident pin, and that Navy Under Secretary Thomas Modley would now be acting Navy secretary.

Hoffman said:

Secretary Esper’s position with regard to UCMJ, disciplinary, and fitness for duty actions has always been that the process should be allowed to play itself out objectively and deliberately, in fairness to all parties. However, at this point, given the events of the last few days, Secretary Esper has directed that Gallagher retain his Trident pin. Secretary Esper will meet with Navy Under Secretary (now Acting Secretary) Thomas Modley and the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday on Monday morning to discuss the way ahead.

The Pentagon statement included a quote from Esper: “I am deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior DOD official. Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position. I wish Richard well.”

Esper has proposed that Ambassador Kenneth Braithwaite, current U.S. Ambassador to Norway and a retired Navy Rear Admiral, be considered as the next Secretary of the Navy, the statement said.

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