Pentagon chief Mark Esper asked for Navy secretary's resignation over secret proposal in Navy SEAL's war crimes case
- Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper asked Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer's resignation on Sunday over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes in Iraq, the Washington Post reported.
- Spencer's resignation comes after days of back-and-forth over the divisive and politically charged case of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who was accused of war crimes and demoted to chief.
- The secret proposal by Spencer would reportedly allow Gallagher to keep his elite status if the White House allowed the Navy to pursue disciplinary actions, which contradicts Spencer's public sparring with Trump on the matter.
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Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper asked Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer's resignation on Sunday over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes in Iraq, the Washington Post reported.
Spencer's resignation comes after days of back-and-forth over the divisive and politically charged case of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who was accused of war crimes and later acquitted of a murder charge but demoted to chief when a military jury convicted him of posing with the corpse while in Iraq in 2017.
Spencer has publicly sparred with President Donald Trump over the Navy's intention to pursue disciplinary actions against Gallagher, but said Sunday he serves at the pleasure of the commander in chief, who has the final say.
Esper reportedly made the decision to ask for Spencer's resignation after learning that he had privately proposed to White House officials that if they allowed the Navy to go ahead with disciplinary proceedings against Gallagher, "Spencer would ensure that Gallagher was able to retire as a Navy SEAL, with his Trident insignia."
Removing a Trident pin means the individual will no longer be a SEAL in the elite unit but could remain in the Navy.
Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement reported by the Post that this was not shared with Esper and contradicted his public position on the case.
"Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position," Esper told The Washington Post. "I wish Richard well."
Spencer reportedly made the proposal amid a flurry of mixed messages from the administration, including a Thursday tweet by Trump, in which he slammed the case as being "handled very badly" and saying definitively said Gallagher would not lose his Trident pin.
Spencer said Friday that he thought proceedings against Gallagher should go forward, telling Reuters in an interview that he believed "the process matters for good order and discipline."
"I think we have a process in place, which we're going forward with, and that's my job," Spencer added.