Fired Navy Secretary Spencer Criticizes Trump In SEAL Case

FILE - In this July 27, 2019, file photo, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer talks with the media following a commissioning ceremony for the U.S. Navy's guided missile destroyer, the USS Paul Ignatius, at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Spencer has written an opinion article sharply critical of President Donald Trump for intervening in the war crimes case of a Navy SEAL. Spencer wrote in the Washington Post on Wednesday, Nov. 27, that Trump’s actions were “shocking” and unprecedented. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Richard Spencer, who was fired as Navy secretary for his handling of a SEAL war crimes case championed by President Donald Trump, wrote that the commander in chief “has very little understanding” of how the American military works.

The extraordinary accusation came in an opinion piece published on The Washington Post’s website Wednesday evening, three days after he was fired. Spencer called Trump’s intervention in the case of Navy Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher “shocking” and unprecedented.

Spencer was fired Sunday by Defense Secretary Mark Esper for working a private deal with the White House to ensure that Gallagher be allowed to retire without losing his SEAL status.

In his Post article, Spencer acknowledged his mistake but also asserted that Trump’s actions were detrimental to the military.

Spencer said Trump had involved himself in the Gallagher case “almost from the start,” by telephoning Spencer even before the SEAL’s court martial started to ask that Gallagher be moved out of confinement at a Navy brig. Spencer said he resisted Trump because the presiding judge had decided that confinement was important. Nonetheless, Trump ordered Spencer to transfer Gallagher from the brig to the equivalent of an enlisted barracks.

Spencer said he believes Trump’s interest in the case stemmed partly from the way Gallagher’s defense lawyers and others “worked to keep it front and center in the media.”

After Gallagher was acquitted of most charges but convicted of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State extremist in Iraq, he submitted his request to retire. In Spencer’s telling, that raised three questions for the Navy, including whether Gallagher should be allowed to retire at his current rank. The military jury had said he should be demoted.

Trump, who had tweeted support for Gallagher and stated that his case had been “handled very badly from the beginning,” short-circuited the Navy’s administrative review of Gallagher’s status by ordering Spencer to restore Gallagher’s rank.

“This was a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low-level review,” Spencer wrote. “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.”

Spencer’s scathing commentary echoes the thrust of an opinion piece published two days earlier by two of his predecessors, Richard Danzig and Sean O’Keefe.

Danzig, who led the Navy under President Bill Clinton, and O’Keefe, his predecessor in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, wrote in The New York Times that Trump has politicized the military to its detriment.

“His values are not those of our military,” they wrote.

Last week, Trump tweeted that Gallagher must be allowed to keep his Trident pin, the medal that designates a SEAL member. The Navy had planned to let an administrative board review the question starting Monday, but eventually Esper decided to stop that process and let Gallagher retire as a SEAL, as Trump had ordered.

Earlier Wednesday, the Navy announced that it had canceled the peer-review boards for three SEAL officers who supervised Gallagher during the Iraq deployment that gave rise to the war crimes charges.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the case was becoming a distraction for the commando force, known for its quiet professionalism but recently roiled with controversy.

The decision was the latest twist in the Gallagher matter. Trump has made no mention of the three SEAL officers also ordered to be reviewed. All three had overseen Gallagher during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.

But Modly said there were better ways to address any “failures in conduct, performance, judgment, or professionalism exhibited by these officers.”

He directed the chief of naval operations to end the review process for Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier and Lt. Thomas MacNeil.

“The United States Navy, and the Naval Special Warfare Community specifically, have dangerous and important work to do,” Modly said in a statement. “In my judgment, neither deserves the continued distraction and negative attention that recent events have evoked.”

Modly said his decision should not be interpreted as loosening the standards he expects of SEALs. He said ongoing efforts will continue to address problems within the SEAL community, which has had numerous allegations of misconduct in recent months.

“Navy uniformed leaders have my full confidence that they will continue to address challenging cultural issues within the Naval Special Warfare community, instill good order and discipline, and enforce the very highest professional standards we expect from every member of that community,” he said.

Portier was Gallagher’s platoon commander and was charged with failing to report the killing of the captive. He denied the charges and they were dropped after the jury acquitted Gallagher of murder.

Portier’s attorney, Jeremiah Sullivan, said Portier was happy to learn he would be allowed to keep his trident, a pin designating SEAL status.

“Lt. Portier is extremely grateful for the unwavering support of President Trump,” Sullivan said.

Attorneys for Breisch and MacNeil did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


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  1. a few points;
    why join an army voluntarily that will punish you for even minor infractions do you love your country more than your wife & kids ? ( not that THESE infractions were minor , i mean in general)
    we need an army, yet it makes humans into robots ,takes a terrible toll on themselves & their kids -these marines come back damaged – i dont know the answer
    ofcourse there needs to be rules but these afganis would cut you up to pieces if they could
    6 years of jail was enough
    the president did the right thing BUT i understand why these generals are flipping out they made an religion of law & order

    • well said generals don’t represent the actual troops who suffer from PSD and are out in the field fighting. yes a 20 year old far away from home fighting a tough war my chose to pose with an ISIS animals less than human corpse who he worked so hard to conquer. They don’t want to be punished and its unfair.

  2. From Wikipedia:

    According to SEAL witnesses, Gallagher said over the radio “he’s mine” and walked up to the medic and prisoner, and without saying a word killed the prisoner by stabbing him repeatedly with his hunting knife. Gallagher and his commanding officer, Lieutenant Jake Portier, then posed for photographs of them standing over the body with some other nearby SEALs. Gallagher then text messaged a fellow SEAL a picture of the dead captive with the explanation “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”

    Another accusation is that Gallagher’s sniper work during his 2017 deployment became indiscriminate, reckless, and bloodthirsty. He allegedly fired his rifle far more frequently than other snipers; according to testimony, the other snipers in the platoon did not consider him a good sniper, and he took “random shots” into buildings. Other snipers said they witnessed Gallagher taking at least two militarily pointless shots, shooting and killing an unarmed old man in a white robe as well as a young girl walking with other girls. Gallagher allegedly boasted about the large number of people he had killed, claiming he averaged three kills a day over 80 days, including four women. Gallagher also was reportedly known for indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine gun fire with no known enemy force in the region.

    A charge of obstruction of justice was brought against Gallagher for alleged witness intimidation. According to the claim, Gallagher allegedly threatened to kill fellow SEALs if they reported his actions.

    • He said she said kind of thing .

      He probably did become a bit crazy with ptsd fighting out there . So he suffers from a mental illness . He still should not be stripped of any honors . This comes from the higher up generals who are tough kind of deep state army people with no feeling for our troops . Thank you president trump

  3. Ore anyone that takes wackopeda seriously needs help.
    But most important if your boss sYs do something and you move against him you are fired period
    And president as chief executive and commander in chief has final word not his employee

    • Was a democrat…
      Yes, the CiC does have the final word: that’s within his authority. However, he also has a responsibility to the members of the armed forces. As Secretary Spencer explained, there are reasons why we want to have discipline, order in the ranks, and accountability.

  4. “In his Post article, Spencer acknowledged his mistake but also asserted that Trump’s actions were detrimental to the military.” So basically: how dare this president? Those pompous @$$ all think they run this country. Sick

  5. President is Commander-in-Chief, end of story. Mr. President; Do what Reagan and even Obama did. Throw the bureaurocRATS out on the street already along with Deep State traitors. We’ve never seen anything like this. On top of that, people like this guy mouthing off after he’s out- just like the rest of them.
    Nobody elected you people- We voted for Trump, you work for him, so get over it.

  6. I’m not going to comment on the Gallagher case, directly. Unfortunately, in war time, ALL sides perpetrate atrocities against other soldiers and civilians. Former Israeli IDF soldiers have stated that during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, they witnessed Egyptian soldiers bayoneting to death, helpless Israeli soldiers, who had already surrendered. Also, other former IDF soldiers have stated that they witnessed Israeli soliders, who didn’t have the manpower to guard large groups of Egyptian POWs, machine gun them to death, also after they had surrendered. Those reports were from IDF veterans of both the Yom Kippur War ,Six Day War, and the Sinai Campaign.

    Also, we are familiar with the Mai Lai Massacre of 1968, during the Vietnam War, where that little weasel Lt. Calley, personally, along with his men, machine gunned helpless men, women, and children,killing well over 100 in the village of Mai Lai. The massacre was witnessed by an Army helicopter pilot, who reported the atrocity. Although President Nixon stated at the time that “those responsible for the Mai Lai massacre will be punished”, Calley got away with murder, and received very minimal punishment.

    There were also reports during that duringWorld War Two, soldiers of various nations perpetrated atrocities against civilians, as well as against enemy combatants who had already surrendered.

    The intention of the military JAG group, NCIS, etc., is to ensure some legal oversight, to make sure that such atrocities don’t occur, or if they do, to see to it that they are dealt with. For example, several American civilian contractors who had without provocation shot and killed a number of Iraqi civilians in a town square were sentenced to life, as well as to long terms of imprisonment. Also, several GI’s, who massacred an entire Iraqi family were also sentenced to life, as well as long prison terms.

    • “Also, other former IDF soldiers have stated that they witnessed Israeli soliders, who didn’t have the manpower to guard large groups of Egyptian POWs,”
      They didn’t have the man power. Thats not the same as totally unjustified acts.
      “Egyptian soldiers bayoneting to death, helpless Israeli soldiers”
      Israeli soliders treat others with more humanity than ISIS solders. And when captured they should be treated the same. They never captured Egyptians and chopped off their head on you tube.
      Re Mai Lai Massacre : That was a massacre. very different then even killing a solider when you kill civillans.

      And to your last point, yes if you kill civllians in an act of revnege you should be punished as those that did in Iraq. But if you kill a despicable ISIS fighter who is better off dead than alive or if you simply pose near his dead body, that level of discipline is no needed.

      As is with the typical Nachum/ yoni style they like to list facts and make a story out of it. Facts are not important. Don’t bore me with them. The reason is beacuse one can always list half facts and / or twist together stories from what they chose. Stories are more important than facts. Its the meassage that needs to be authentic. So don’t bore me with facts.

      Whats the correct message? The message is if one kills an ISIS solider who is the lowest of the lowest he should not be penalized. If one posses near an ISIS dead body after a long day he should not be peanlized.
      (yes if one kills civilians or innocent women and children he should be punished but that’s not the story)

  7. To Archy: According to your misguided reasoning, if soldiers of any nation have surrendered, and are helpless, and if the army whom they’ve surrendered to don’t have the manpower to guard them, then the army who they’ve surrendered to, is justified in engaging in a massacre and killing them! To quote a phrase, which President Trump used at his Sunrise, Florida rally, the other evening, “that is what is known as bulls—-“.

    • I am not saying it completley justified. But its defintley less cruel in nature than killing for no reason.

      Secondly, if its arabs whom are the lowest of the lowest and known to suicidal (meaning if they see that man power is weak they’d attack even if many will die), that further weakens the severity.


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