United States Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired the US Navy’s top civilian on Sunday over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL who was convicted of battlefield misconduct in Iraq but later won the support of President Donald Trump.
Esper asked for the resignation Sunday and Spencer submitted it, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.
The request involved the case of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was accused of war crimes committed during his deployment to Iraq in 2017. He was acquitted of the more serious charges of murder but found guilty of posing with the body of a teenaged Islamic State militant. As a result, Gallagher was demoted.
But U.S. President Donald Trump intervened in the case and pardoned him and restored his rank and pay.
When Trump learned last week that the Navy planned to bring Gallagher before a review board to determine if he could continue to wear the Trident Pin, which signifies membership in the elite commando unit, he intervened again.
Trump tweeted: “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”
Mr Spencer had made private proposals to the White House, which he did not share with Mr Esper, and had contradicted his public position, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffmann said in a statement.
Spencer never informed Esper of his private proposal, Hoffman said.
Esper decided to ask for Spencer’s resignation after “losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candour over conversations with the White House,” Hoffman added.
Mr Spencer had privately suggested to White House officials that if they did not interfere with proceedings against Edward Gallagher, he would ensure that the officer retired as a Navy Seal.
“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 statement said.
Gallagher told the conservative Fox News channel on Sunday that he intends to retire next Saturday.