US Navy SEAL case leads to Navy secretary’s dismissal

This appeared in The Millennial Source

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On Sunday, November 24, U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was ousted for his handling of court-martialed U.S. Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s case. In September this year, Gallagher was demoted for his involvement in criminal activities while serving in Iraq, but in November, President Donald Trump intervened to restore the SEAL’s rank.

Spencer’s handling of the case earned the ire of both President Trump and his direct superior, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

Who is Eddie Gallagher?

On November 15, President Trump intervened to restore Gallagher’s rank and publicly stated Gallagher should retain his Trident pin. Along with Gallagher’s restored rank, the president simultaneously pardoned two U.S. Army officers accused of war crimes. One was First Lieutenant Clint Lorance who was convicted in 2013 of two counts of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice. The other pardoned officer, Major Mathew Golsteyn, was to face trial in 2020 for the murder of a suspected Afghan bomb maker.

Richard Spencer’s ousting

However, Defense Secretary Esper was angered to learn that Spencer had been secretly negotiating with the White House to restore Gallagher’s rank. It was an apparent attempt by Spencer to maintain his public position while avoiding conflict with President Trump. Spencer did not discuss this move with his superior, Esper, who reprimanded the Navy secretary for failing to follow the appropriate chain of command. Esper cited his loss of trust and confidence in Spencer in his decision to fire him.

The fallout after Spencer’s firing

Prior to his dismissal, Spencer denied reports that he intended to resign. After the dismissal, he emphatically stated that he did not retire: “ I got fired.” In Spencer’s letter of resignation, he gave pointed reasons for accepting his ousting. He explained it had become apparent he and President Trump did not see eye to eye “in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline.” He went on to say that following the order to restore Spencer’s rank and Trident pin would violate the sacred oath he took as the Navy secretary.

Reactions to Gallagher’s case

The three service members at the center of President Trump’s interventions have been lauded by conservative voices in the media. Gallagher appeared for an interview on Fox News just prior to the president’s direct intervention into his case. He has been portrayed by his lawyers and numerous conservative pundits as a dedicated officer who did the necessary but unpalatable work that is required in wartime.

The next step

The Navy secretary is appointed by the president and must be a civilian who has been out of military service for at least five years. Spencer was nominated to the position by President Trump in June 2017 and it was subsequently confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August of that year. Spencer is succeeded by Thomas Modly who will be acting secretary of the Navy until President Trump’s nominee is confirmed.

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