Trump fires navy secretary over handling of discipline case
WASHINGTON: The chief of the US Navy on Sunday criticised Donald Trump after being sacked in a dispute over an elite Seal commando whose demotion for misconduct was reversed by the president.
Mr Richard Spencer was ousted as Navy Secretary, a civilian position, in a case that has fuelled reports that the US military leadership has been angered by Mr Trump's interference in discipline cases.
"I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principles of good order and discipline," Mr Spencer said in a stinging letter published by US media. "I hereby acknowledge my termination as United States Secretary of the Navy."
The dispute centres on the fate of Navy Seal Edward Gallagher who was accused of war crimes in a high-profile case but was found guilty of a lesser offence.
On Nov 15, Mr Trump reversed the demotion handed down to Mr Gallagher, who was accused in the stabbing to death of a wounded Islamic State in Iraq and Syria prisoner in Iraq in 2017, attempted murder of other civilians and obstruction of justice.
Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday that Mr Gallagher had been "treated very badly" by the navy, and that Mr Spencer had been asked to resign over the issue and over his alleged failure to address budget overruns.
The president said Mr Gallagher would not be expelled from the elite Seal (Sea, Air, and Land) force.
"Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honours that he has earned," Mr Trump tweeted.
Defence Secretary Mark Esper said he had asked for Mr Spencer's resignation "after losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candour over conversations with the White House", the Department of Defence said in a statement.
The US Navy had launched a discipline procedure which could have stripped Mr Gallagher and three other members of his unit of their prestigious "Trident pins" - effectively booting them from the Seal force.
The president also dismissed a second degree murder conviction against Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance, who was six years into a 19-year term for ordering soldiers in 2012 to fire on three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle, two of whom died.
And he granted clemency to West Point graduate Matt Golsteyn, an ex-member of the elite US Army Green Berets, charged with premeditated murder. - AFP