Nov. 25 (UPI) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper asked for the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer on Sunday, citing his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL found guilty of posing for photos with a dead prisoner of war.
Esper lost “trust and confidence” in Spencer after he learned the Navy secretary had contradicted his public position by privately proposing to the White House that President Donald Trump allow the Navy to conduct an internal review of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher and he would then restore his rank and allow him to retire with his Trident pin.
“I am deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior DOD official,” said Esper. “Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position. I wish Richard well.”
The decision comes one day after Spencer denied reports that he had threatened to resign after President Donald Trump intervened in Gallagher’s case.
In July, Gallagher was acquitted of war crimes charges that included murdering a teenage Islamic State captive, shooting civilians and threatening those who gave their superiors information on him during his time in Iraq. He was convicted of posing for a photo with the IS fighter’s dead body and sentenced to four months confinement and loss of rank.
The Navy’s top officer upheld the punishment last month, but Trump restored Gallagher’s rank to E-7 and later tweeted that the Navy would not remove his Trident pin.
On Sunday, the Pentagon said that “given the events of the last few days” Esper had directed that Gallagher retain his pin.
In his resignation letter, Spencer said he couldn’t in good conscience continue to serve under President Trump due to their conflict of opinions on the issue.
“As Secretary of the Navy, one of the most important responsibilities I have to our people is to maintain good order and discipline throughout the ranks. I regard this as deadly serious business,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, it has become apparent in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline.”
Undersecretary of the Navy Tom Modley will serve as acting Navy secretary and Esper has proposed U.S. Ambassador to Norway Kenneth Braithwaite be considered as the next secretary.