Richard Spencer, the secretary of the Navy who was fired on Sunday, released a scathing letter to Donald Trump later in the day. In that letter, which may be seen via a Twitter post below on this page, Spencer says that he refused to follow an order from Trump because it would require that he break “the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith” to defend the United States Constitution.
Spencer clashed with Trump over the disciplinary proceedings against Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was accused of war crimes in Iraq. Gallagher allegedly shot unarmed Iraqi civilians, including a schoolgirl and an elderly man, from a sniper’s perch. He was acquitted of those charges in a military trial, though he was ultimately convicted for posing in a photo with the dead body of a captured prisoner of war.
The Navy planned to open disciplinary proceedings that could have resulted in Gallagher’s expulsion from the elite SEAL commando unit. But Trump stepped in and ordered the disciplinary process to stop.
However, reports have pointed out that the reason why Defense Secretary Mark Esper demanded Spencer’s resignation remains confusing. Esper said he lost “confidence” in Spencer when the Navy secretary went over his head, proposing a “secret agreement” with Trump to stop intervening in the discipline of Gallagher, according to CNN.
On the other hand, Spencer’s letter makes clear that his “termination” was allegedly the result of his conflict with Trump and his defiance of the order to halt disciplinary proceedings against Gallagher, according to an NBC News report.
After explaining his belief that following “the rule of law,” and “good order and discipline” is what sets the United States apart from its adversaries, and enables military victories, Spencer wrote, “I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me.”
BREAKING: In extraordinary resignation letter, US Navy Sec. Spencer writes that "I no longer share the same understanding as the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline." https://t.co/nV9pJGXJPI pic.twitter.com/u6xX6Ai3xL
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 24, 2019
But in a series of Twitter posts following the announcement of Spencer’s firing, Trump claimed that the Navy secretary was sent packing due to “large cost overruns from past administration’s contracting procedures” that were not “addressed to my satisfaction.”
In the tweets, the president said that he had selected the current U.S. ambassador to Norway, Kenneth Braithwaite, to replace Spencer as Navy secretary. Braithwaite is a former Navy aviator who was named rear admiral in 2007.
Despite the serious charges against Gallagher, and the SEAL’s conviction on a charge of “bringing discredit to the armed services” for posing with a corpse, Trump has been seen as supportive of the accused war criminal. When the Navy knocked Gallagher down in rank following his conviction, Trump ordered his rank restored — over the objections of Esper and top military brass.