Esper Expands on Why He Fired Navy Secretary Spencer

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Posted: Nov 25, 2019 2:15 PM
Esper Expands on Why He Fired Navy Secretary Spencer

Source: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over the weekend after reports that he proposed a secret deal with the White House over Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher. Gallagher lost his rank after his war crimes case, before President Trump issued him a pardon. Navy officials were reportedly planning an additional review, and Spencer presented a proposal to Trump noting that if he allowed the review to proceed, Gallagher could keep his Trident pin.

Above all, Esper explained at a Pentagon briefing on Monday, Spencer was dismissed because he did not respect the chain of command when he went behind his back to present a plan to the White House. The secret proposal left him "flabbergasted."

"First, we have a chain of command that should be followed and that chain of command must be kept informed," Esper said. "Second, once we agree on a position, we stick to it and support it both in private and public. Third, if you don't like that position, then simply resign."

"Contrary to the narrative that someone put forward in the media, this dismissal is not about Eddie Gallagher," he emphasized. "It's about Secretary Spencer in the chain of command."

Gallagher had been charged with murder for killing an ISIS fighter in 2017 but was convicted on a lesser charge of posing for a photograph with a dead captive. In his departure letter, Spencer questioned Trump's reversal of the case, suggesting he had dropped the ball on "good order and discipline."

Gallagher appeared on "Fox & Friends" on Sunday to blast Navy officials for "meddling" in his case.

"This is all about ego and retaliation, this has nothing to do with good order or discipline," Gallagher charged.

The SEAL said he was "overjoyed" that President Trump had intervened to restore his rank and reputation.