Defense Secretary Mark Esper has asked for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer’s resignation, according to reports.
The request came after Spencer sought to negotiate with the White House over the case of a Navy SEAL found guilty of committing war crimes in 2017. In a private meeting, Spencer reportedly said that Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher — whose demotion Trump reversed on Nov. 15 — would be able to retire as a Navy SEAL and keep his Trident insignia if the White House did not interfere in the Navy’s disciplinary proceedings.
A statement from the Pentagon said Spencer has lost the trust of the defense secretary.
“Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper has asked for the resignation of Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer after losing trust & confidence in him regarding his lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher,” the statement said.
In his resignation letter, Secretary Spencer said he and Trump “no longer share the same understanding” and that he “cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag, and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Gallagher was demoted after being convicted for posing with a corpse in a photograph while serving in Iraq. He was charged with multiple other counts, including shooting civilians. The naval officer has since become a darling of the conservative movement, making appearances across right-wing media leading up to and since Trump’s decision to reverse his demotion.
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Trump echoed previous defenses he has made on Gallagher’s behalf.
“I was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy,” Trump wrote. “Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned, including his Trident Pin.”
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