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Trump says he ‘may get involved’ over aircraft carrier captain’s removal

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic alongside members of the Coronavirus Task Force on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool/Abaca Press/TNS)
April 07, 2020

President Donald Trump signaled Monday he may interject in the Navy’s handling of Capt. Brett Crozier, who was removed from command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier last week.

During a Monday press briefing to discuss the U.S. coronavirus response, Trump was asked about comments made by acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly earlier in the day, during which he criticized Crozier’s alleged disclosures about the ship’s coronavirus outbreak as a “betrayal” and suggested the captain may have been “too naive or too stupid” to lead the ship.

“I haven’t heard it exactly, I haven’t heard,” Trump said of Modly’s critical address to the aircraft carrier crew. “I heard they had a statement that was made, if that were the statement, it’s a strong statement.”

Crozier was removed from command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt following a leaked letter to his chain of command describing his ship’s struggles with a coronavirus outbreak that was published by the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Trump offered some defense of the decision to remove Crozier, stating, “Look, the letters shouldn’t have been sent, and certainly, they shouldn’t have been leaked. This is a military operation.”

Despite the criticism of the leaked letter, Trump went on to say, “I must tell you, I’ve heard very good things about the gentlemen. Both gentlemen, by the way, I will say this, about both gentlemen. And I may look into it only from the standpoint of something should be resolved because I’m hearing good things about both of people. I may just get involved.”

Trump characterized Modly’s remarks to the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt as “a rough statement.”

Modly addressed the crew of the aircraft carrier, currently docked in Guam, in an effort to explain the reasoning for his decision to remove their captain. Modly’s remarks did not appear to resolve the issue with the crew, which had previously shown cheering support for the captain after he was ordered off the ship. Leaked audio from some of the crew listening to Modly’s Monday address further demonstrated many of the sailors were still dissatisfied with Modly’s assessment of the situation.

Trump said Crozier’s disclosure “showed weakness” and should not have been disseminated in the way it was, over email but said Crozier had served a successful military career up until the recent controversy.

“I’m going to get involved and see exactly what’s going on there, Trump said, “because I don’t want to destroy somebody for having a bad day.”

Modly apologized for his critical remarks against Crozier on Monday night, though several members of Congress have already called for his resignation over the matter.

The Navy is currently investigating the removal incident and was expected to deliver its initial assessment on Monday, however, Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday extended the investigation Monday night.