Ousted U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer is speaking out about the events that led to his firing, calling President Donald Trump‘s intervention in a war crimes case “shocking and unprecedented.”
In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Spencer wrote that he was troubled by Trump’s involvement in the case of Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, who stood trial for multiple war crimes. In July, Gallagher was acquitted of murder in the death of a teen ISIS fighter but was convicted of posing with his corpse.
NBC reports Gallagher was demoted to petty officer first class and fined two months’ pay.
But earlier in November, Trump reversed Gallagher’s demotion. He then tweeted that he wouldn’t let the Navy strip Gallagher of his prestigious Navy SEALs Trident status.
“The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” Trump, 73, wrote. “This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”
On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper requested Spencer’s resignation. The ouster came after the Spencer went outside the chain of command to seek a further review process about whether Gallagher should retain his Trident status, according to NBC News.
Spencer, 65, sharply criticized Trump’s involvement in the Gallagher case in his op-ed, writing, “This was a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low-level review. It was also a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.”
Though he stands by his desire to seek further reviews over Gallagher’s honorable status, Spencer wrote he regrets going behind Esper’s back.
I was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy. He was treated very badly but, despite this, was completely exonerated on all major charges. I then restored Eddie’s rank. Likewise, large cost overruns from past administration’s.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2019
“I also began to work without personally consulting Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on every step. That was, I see in retrospect, a mistake for which I am solely responsible,” he wrote.
Spencer said the military has “extensive screening procedures” currently in place, but that new measures need to be implemented to prevent “a case such as this one from happening again.”
“We must now move on and learn from what has transpired,” he wrote. “More importantly, Americans need to know that 99.9 percent of our uniformed members always have, always are and always will make the right decision.”
He added: “Our allies need to know that we remain a force for good, and to please bear with us as we move through this moment in time.”