Navy Secretary Fired Over Eddie Gallagher Dispute, Tries to Undercut President on Same

Latest controversy — including the military's use of political manuevering — has many ramifications

Image Credit: Free Eddie Gallagher - Navy SEAL Chief Facebook Page

In an unprecedented Pentagon controversy, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer was fired on Sunday because he lied to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper regarding the controversy surrounding Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher (Gallagher is shown above).

In a related issue, Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley made public their opposition to the president on the issue of Gallagher’s military honors.

That is not standard operating procedure in D.C.

The entire issue stems from CPO Gallagher’s acquittal of murder charges on July 2, 2019.

Gallagher had been charged with killing a captured Iraqi terrorist, but another member of his SEAL team admitted to the act, thus exonerating Gallagher.

He was still convicted of taking a photo with the corpse of the terrorist.

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As a result, the Navy reduced him in rank to first class petty officer — until President Donald Trump intervened and restored Gallagher’s former rank of chief petty officer.

Not happy with the president’s decision, high-ranking Navy officers and bureaucrats, looking for another way to punish Gallagher, decided to take away his “Trident.”

The Trident emblem denotes SEAL qualification and is highly prized in the special operations community.

The president intervened there, too, ordering the Navy to cease its punishment of Gallagher.

This is Trump’s right as commander-in-chief.

In conversations on the subject with the White House, Esper and Milley requested that Trump allow the Trident review board to go forward and possibly take away Gallagher’s symbol of service. The president overruled them.

Navy Secretary Spencer had privately told Esper that he sided with him and Milley — and had communicated that to the president. What Spencer did not tell Esper is that he had already talked to the White House to try and work out a deal.

In fact, he told Esper he had not done that and that reports that he had were not true.

Under Spencer’s plan as privately proposed to President Trump, the review would go forward but the fix would be in allowing Gallagher to keep his rank and Trident.

Related: Navy SEAL Special Ops Commander Was Fighting His Own Commanders

Spencer was playing both sides against the middle, a favorite D.C. practice.

He told Esper one thing and the president another, seeking to curry favor with both sides.

What he did not count on was Esper and Milley finding out in conversation with the president what Spencer had privately proposed to the Oval Office.

When Esper found out about the double cross, he wasted no time in sacking Spencer.

The president was not happy — and he made it clear in this tweet.

What is strange here is not the firing of Spencer.

He gambled, lost, and paid the price.

What is odd is that two senior defense officials, Esper and Milley — knowing full well the president’s intent on an issue — decided to propose another action after the commander-in-chief publicly and strongly expressed his wishes on the matter.

They let their position be known outside the Pentagon by leaks to reporters friendly on the issue of punishing Gallagher.

Combine that with the recent testimony of Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman at the House Intel Committee’s impeachment inquiry‘s televised hearings — and a trend seems to be taking shape, one of the military’s use of political maneuvers to go around and/or oppose the president.

In a democracy in which civilian rule of the military is thought to be sacrosanct, this cannot be a good development.

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David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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