From the Arizona Daily Star:
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday fired the Navy’s top official for allegedly proposing a deal with the White House behind Esper’s back to resolve the matter of a Navy SEAL whose case has been championed by President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday the Navy had notified Gallagher that he would face a Navy SEAL review board to determine if he should be allowed to remain in the elite force.
He was demoted from chief petty officer to a 1st class petty officer. Trump this month restored Gallagher’s rank.
Esper on Sunday directed that Gallagher be allowed to retire at the end of this month, and that the Navy review board that was scheduled to hear his case starting Dec. 2 be cancelled, Hoffman said. At Esper’s direction, Gallagher will be allowed to retire as a SEAL at his current rank, Hoffman said. He said Esper had concluded that Gallagher could not, under the circumstances, receive a fair shake from the Navy, and thus should be allowed to retire.
From the New York Times:
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper demanded the resignation of the Navy’s top civilian leader on Sunday, an abrupt move aimed at ending an extraordinary dispute between President Trump and his own senior military leadership over the fate of a SEAL commando in a war crimes case.
Mr. Spencer had also provoked Mr. Trump’s ire by threatening to resign over the case and by publicly saying he disagreed with the president’s decision to intervene in favor of the commando, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, Defense Department officials said.
Spencer’s resignation letter said this:
“Unfortunately, it has become apparent that 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. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took.”
Mr. Trump was having none of it. On Thursday, he wrote on Twitter that “the Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin.” He added: “This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”
The president’s tweet further infuriated top Navy and SEALs leaders, and Mr. Spencer threatened to resign, Defense Department officials said. He told a number of Pentagon officials that he was willing to go to the mat over this, and it was under that belief that Mr. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then went to Mr. Trump to ask him to allow the disciplinary process to go through.
If you cut through all the bullshit, the bottom line is that Trump feels that he can do whatever he wants, and he becomes vindictive against public servants who feel that “good order and discipline” should be followed.
From the Washington Post this morning:
With Spencer’s firing, Trump has recklessly crossed a line he had generally observed before, which had exempted the military from his belligerent, government-by-tweet interference. But the Gallagher case illustrates how an irascible, vengeful commander in chief is ready to override traditional limits to aid political allies in foreign policy, law enforcement and now military matters.
For Pentagon officials who have wondered whether Esper would have the backbone to resist Trump, Sunday’s events were troubling. The Pentagon, like the State Department under Mike Pompeo, is now overseen by an official whose overriding priority seems to be accommodating an impetuous boss in the White House.
Trump began lobbying Spencer to exempt Gallagher from Navy discipline back in March, when he ordered the Navy secretary in an early-morning phone call to release Gallagher from the brig and give him more comfortable quarters. Presidential pressure has been relentless, ever since.
Gallagher has become a hero in the Trump echo chamber of Fox News commentary, where he’s seen as a victim of vengeful SEAL commanders. While Gallagher is celebrated on Fox, current and former senior officers of the SEALs and other elite units told me this weekend that his case has little support within the community of Special Operations forces.