US defense secretary fires navy secretary

Updated on Nov 25, 2019 10:26 PM IST
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has fired his Navy secretary Richard Spencer after losing confidence in him over the handling of case of a decorated navy SEAL accused of war crimes.
Richard V. Spencer(Reuters file photo)
Richard V. Spencer(Reuters file photo)
Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has fired his Navy secretary Richard Spencer after losing confidence in him over the handling of case of a decorated navy SEAL accused of war crimes, the department of defense said in a statement Sunday,

Edward Gallagher, the SEAL, had been acquitted of murder charges in the death of a terrorist during a 2017 deployment in Iraq. But he was convicted of posing for a picture with the corpse. He had been demoted, which was overturned by President Donald Trump, and faced ouster from the elite service..

The Pentagon said Spencer had “privately” tried to cut a deal with the White House, to allow Gallagher to retire from service as a SEAL, with the Trident Pin and his current rank, contrary to the position he had taken on the situation publicly. He had not discussed this proposal with Esper.

Esper and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Mark A Milley came to know of Spencer’s proposal from President Trump on Friday. And on Sunday Esper asked for Spencer’s resignation “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”.

In a separate decision on Sunday, Esper allowed Gallagher to retire as a SEAL, with his pin, at the end of the month.

“I was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy. He was treated very badly but, despite this, was completely exonerated on all major charges. I then restored Eddie’s rank. Likewise, large cost overruns from past administration’s contracting procedures were not addressed to my satisfaction. Therefore, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

President’s critics have said the handling of the Gallagher case as symptomatic of this administration’s larger problem. “What just happened with the Navy is part of a pattern. @realDonaldTrump has undermined the intelligence community, the foreign service, and our alliances, So it was only a matter of time before he took on the military,” Richard Haas, president of Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on twitter.

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