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Navy Secretary is fired over SEAL dispute

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who threatened to resign last week over Trump’s order reversing discipline against a Navy SEAL who was court-martialed for posing with an enemy corpse, was fired Sunday by Secretary of Defense Mike Esper.

Spencer ostensibly was fired for going around Esper in privately proposing a resolution of the case to the White House under which the sailor would retain rank and status but retire. Trump quickly endorsed the firing by issuing a tweet criticizing Spencer.

Spencer had complained that Trump’s order overturning the military court’s decision would undermine discipline in the ranks, a concern shared by other high-ranking military officers. His departure likely became inevitable after he refused to recognize Trump’s tweets as orders and demanded that Trump put the order in writing.

But he was fired by Esper — not by Trump — when Esper learned Spencer “privately proposed to the White House both that Gallagher’s rank be restored and that he be allowed to retire as a SEAL … Esper was never informed of the private proposal,” according to NBC News (read their story here). A Pentagon statement characterized this as going around the chain of command, a no-no in the military services.

It’s reasonable to suppose Esper learned about it from the White House, which undoubtedly wanted to get rid of Spencer. Spencer responded to his firing by saying he could not continue serving under this president because of their clashing values, which seemed to tacitly acknowledge that his days in the role of Navy Secretary were numbered anyway.

Trump, a draft dodger during the Vietnam War, also controversially pardoned several other U.S. service members recently convicted of war crimes, including murder, under the military justice system.

 


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