During a Pentagon briefing, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday that President Donald Trump had ordered him to drop disciplinary measures against Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, who was prosecuted by the Navy and later acquitted of war crimes.
This decision implies that Gallagher will be able to retire without losing his gold eagle Trident emblem, which makes him a service member is part of one of one of the Navy’s elite Special Warfare Navy Sea, Air and Land units, or SEALs.
President Trump accused the department of mishandling the Gallagher case, which resulted in the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.
Gallagher, a decorated officer and 19 year veteran, was accused of fatally stabbing an unarmed 17 years old wounded fighter who belonged to the Islamic State group, posing for a photo with the body and shooting two civilians from a sniper´s perch in Iraq in 2017.
For these facts, he was demoted from chief petty office to petty officer first class and subject to disciplinary action that meant his removal from the elite body and that he was stripped of the emblems and honors he had been given.
Then, earlier this month, Trump reversed the order, reinstating Gallagher as a chief petty officer. He said on Tweeter that the navy will “NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin”.
Military sectors have criticized Trump for intervening in the trial against army officers involved in war crimes like the Green Beret case accused of killing an Afghan man, and the pardon of a former Army officer who ordered soldiers to fire on unarmed Afghan men.
The Defense Department announced on Sunday that Mark Esper had asked the Navy Secretary to resign due to “his lack of candour”.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffmann said in a statement that Spencer had made private proposals to the White House, which he did not share with the Defense Secretary , and had contradicted his public position.
According to data provided by The Washington Post, Spencer had proposed in private to White House officials that if they did not interfere with proceedings against Gallagher, he would make sure that the officer retired as a Navy Seal.
The New York Times however quoted defense officials as saying that President Trump was upset because Mr. Spencer had threatened to resign if the president intervened in the case.
On his tweet posted on Sunday, the US President declared that he was not satifsfied with the way the Navy had handled Gallagher’s trial
He wrote, that in therefore, “ Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated,” and added, “Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honours that he has earned, including his Trident pin.”
On the other hand, Spencer wrote in his resignation letter: : “The rule of law is what sets us apart from our adversaries. Good order and discipline is what has enabled our victory against foreign tyranny time and again.”
He marked his disagreement with that decision by stating that
“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.”
Trump has also intervened in other high-profile murder cases involving U.S. service members, dismissing charges against a Green Beret accused of killing an Afghan man, and pardoning a former Army officer serving 19 years for ordering soldiers to fire on unarmed Afghan men.