The US Navy chief disagreed with the exclusion of an elite soldier who had been pardoned by President Trump.
US Navy chief Richard Spencer was forced to resign on Sunday, November 24, due to a controversy over the fate of an elite soldier accused of crimes and pardoned by President Donald Trump.
Richard Spencer, who had just been asked to resign by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, confirmed his departure in an open letter criticizing Donald Trump, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“I no longer share the same understanding as the Commander-in-Chief who appointed me, with regard to the fundamental principles of good order and discipline,” wrote Richard Spencer in this letter published by the American media. “I hereby acknowledge the termination of my duties as U.S. Secretary of the Navy. »
Loss of confidence
A few hours earlier, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had called on Richard Spencer to resign from his civilian position. Mark Esper “asked Navy Secretary Richard Spencer to resign after losing confidence in him regarding his insincerity about conversations with the White House in handling the Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher case,” the Pentagon said in a statement. Mark Esper is “deeply disturbed by this behaviour,” the Pentagon added.
Edward Gallagher, a member of the Navy Seals, an elite unit of the Navy, had been tried for war crimes in a well-attended case in the United States. He was found not guilty on July 2 of the murder of a prisoner in Iraq in 2017 and acquitted of two attempted murders of Iraqi civilians.
But Private Gallagher was found guilty of placing a picture next to the body of the young man killed with other soldiers that was likely to “harm the armed forces”, according to the indictment. As a result, he had been downgraded by one rank, a penalty that reduced his pay and retirement.
On November 15, Donald Trump overturned the Navy’s decision to demote Gallagher.
The Department of Defense accused the Secretary of the Navy of secretly proposing to the White House an arrangement whereby, if the presidency did not interfere with the proceedings against Gallagher, the member would retire without previously being excluded from the Navy Seal. Richard Spencer would not have communicated this proposal to the Secretary of Defense.
The US Navy had initiated an internal procedure that could result in Edward Gallagher and three other members of the same unit losing the distinctive Navy Seals badge, the Trident, a sanction that amounts to a outright exclusion of the SEALs.
“With all honors”
But Donald Trump’s intervention had compromised the process. The president said Thursday on Twitter: “The Navy will NOT remove the Trident badge from the Combatant and Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher. »
On Sunday, Donald Trump tweeted that Gallagher had been “very badly treated” by the Navy. He indicated that Richard Spencer had been asked to resign because of this case and also for not taking action on a budget overrun issue.
And Donald Trump reaffirmed that Gallagher would not be excluded from the Navy Seals. “Eddie will quietly retire with all the honours he deserves,” he tweeted.
Speaking on Sunday on Fox News television, Edward Gallagher accused the Navy of wanting to take action against him in retaliation for a disagreement. “They could have taken my Trident at any time,” he said. But, “now they’re trying to take it away from me when the president has restored me to my rank.
“I could not obey an order that violated the sacred oath”
In his open letter announcing his departure, Richard Spencer stated that his conscience did not allow him to comply with what Donald Trump wanted in the Gallagher case. “In conscience, I could not obey an order that, in my opinion, violated the sacred oath I took to uphold and defend the Constitution,” says the former Secretary of the Navy. He added that maintaining order and discipline in the ranks of the Navy “is an extremely serious job”.
The case of Edward Gallagher and those of other soldiers pardoned in November by Donald Trump have been criticized by former American military officials.
The President has decided to pardon First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, convicted of ordering in 2012 to shoot a group of three Afghan civilians, two of whom were killed. Before his presidential pardon, Lorance had served six of the nineteen years in prison to which he had been sentenced. Donald Trump also pardoned a former member of the Green Berets, an elite unit of the U.S. Army, on charges of premeditated murder in 2010 of a Taliban suspected of bomb-making.