The decision to remove Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, amid continued fallout from Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s war crimes case, appears to have received support and criticism along party lines.
President Donald Trump’s Republican allies have largely sided with the president’s decision to intervene on Gallagher’s behalf, according to the Wall Street Journal. Democrats and other Trump critics, by contrast, have suggested Trump’s involvement in the case amounted to an undue interference in the legitimate military justice process.
After Trump decided earlier in the month to restore Gallagher to his full military rank, the Navy called for a review of Gallagher’s SEAL status. The Navy decision drew criticism from Trump and, in the days that followed, saw Spencer’s resignation over a loss of confidence for his part in handling Gallagher’s review.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, described Spencer as a patriot who was punished for standing up to Trump’s involvement in the Gallagher case.
“Secretary Spencer did the right thing and he should be proud of standing up to President Trump when he was wrong, something too many in this administration and the Republican Party are scared to do,” Schumer said.
While the Navy was still publicly supporting a review process to consider whether Gallagher would be allowed to remain a SEAL, the Pentagon claimed Spencer had actually proposed a deal with Trump to allow Gallagher to keep his SEAL Trident pin.
Defense Secretary Mike Esper was reportedly not made aware of Spencer’s dealing in Gallagher’s review and suggested his removal after losing confidence in Spencer.
“Both Secretary Esper and President Trump deserve to have a leadership team who has their trust and confidence,” Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, said.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also backed Trump and Esper’s decision in Gallagher’s case, despite claims they circumvented the normal military justice procedures.
“The secretary of defense, the president of the United States are all part of the process, and they made a decision. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s case closed now,” Milley said.
Trump pointed to other problems with Spencer, including cost overruns on certain Navy programs, as part of the removal decision.
….contracting procedures were not addressed to my satisfaction. Therefore, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. I thank Richard for his service & commitment. Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2019
Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, appeared to back Trump’s criticism of Spencer’s handling of several Navy programs.
“It is no secret that I had my own disagreements with Secretary Spencer over the management of specific Navy programs, and I look forward to receiving and considering a nomination of the Navy as soon as possible,” Inhofe said.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-VA, another member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the issues surrounding the Gallagher case needed their own congressional investigation.
“We have many unanswered questions about Secretary Spencer’s departure,” Kaine said Monday in a statement.
Kaine called Spencer “a patriotic American and an effective leader.”