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Arizona congressman asks Naval Academy superintendent to drop charges against midshipman facing separation over tweets

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar (Gage Skidmore/WikiCommons)

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar wrote to Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck asking for administrative charges against Midshipman 1st Class Chase Standage to be dropped, calling the academy’s actions “inherently un-American.”

Standage is facing separation from the Naval Academy over a series of tweets from this summer, which the Naval Academy leadership deemed inappropriate. The tweets, some of which were racist, called for military action against antifa — the umbrella term for people who protest against fascism, sometimes through violent measures — which Standage called domestic terrorists, citing President Donald Trump. Standage also tweeted that Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Louisville police, received justice when she was killed.

The Naval Academy opened an investigation into Standage, which resulted in Buck recommending separation. The academy leadership, in the investigation, told Standage it was not the content he tweeted but rather how he tweeted it. Standage filed a lawsuit against the academy, seeking an injunction preventing his expulsion.

The lawsuit is still being litigated. U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Hollander, who is presiding over the case, has not yet filed her opinion on the case.

Standage, depending on the outcome, is supposed to start graduate school at the University of Maryland through the Voluntary Graduate Education Program in the spring.

In his lawsuit, Standage, through his attorney and academy alumnus Jeffrey McFadden, cited First and Fifth Amendment violations. McFadden did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gosar agrees with Standage over the First Amendment violations, according to his letter. Gosar could not immediately be reached for comment. He wrote that it is not the job of Buck or the Naval Academy to regulate someone’s political beliefs.

“My concern is that the administrative action is allowing one of our military academies to violate free expression of ideas and stepping into an inherently political arena,” Gosar wrote.

The Naval Academy’s social media policy, Commandant of Midshipmen Notice 5720, generally allows midshipmen to express political beliefs on social media platforms. However, if they are identified as members of the military on social media, midshipmen must put a disclaimer saying their opinions do not reflect those of the military. In the recommending separation, academy leadership argued that Standage was identifiable as a midshipman and did not have that disclaimer, which could lead people to believe his opinions represent the academy.

Midshipmen cannot post content that violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military’s version of laws. In the separation recommendation, Buck and academy leadership determined that Standage’s tweets violated the UCMJ statute conduct unbecoming.

Gosar wrote that he has reviewed the tweet in question and said it was not worth discussing. It is unclear which tweet Gosar is referring to, as the academy referenced more than 40 tweets by Standage over the summer.

“I am concerned that the Naval Academy, by taking severe and draconian administrative actions against Standage has lowered its standards to such a degree that is fair to question the military readiness and preparedness taking place there,” Gosar wrote.

The congressman said that he was told that Standage agreed with Trump’s classification of Black Lives Matter as a domestic terrorist organization. It is unclear if Standage was referring to Black Lives Matter in his tweets, which are mostly responses to other tweets, including the president, who tweeted “Domestic Terrorists have taken over Seattle, run by Radical Left Democrats, of course. LAW & ORDER!”

Standage responded by tweeting a picture of a street intersection in the crosshairs with the caption “Law and Order from 25,000 ft.”

It is not clear if it is Black Lives Matter that Trump calls domestic terrorists in his tweet.

Gosar copied Trump, as well as Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Michael Kunzelman with the Associated Press, on his letter.

In Standage’s lawsuit, he often cites Trump as commander-in-chief, saying his tweets about domestic terrorism were about people Trump deemed to be domestic terrorists, as well as Trump’s executive order banning training on critical race theory. Gosar also cites this reasoning in his letter.

He also writes he is concerned by the academy’s political correctness and how it is affecting the training of officers.

“There is no role for political correctness in the U.S. military, and rest assured our nation’s enemies are engaging in acts of political correctness against their officers in training unless such correctness is in the form of communist indoctrination or punishment for expressing ideas not in line with the authoritarian regime,” he wrote.

Standage remains in limbo until Hollander decides on his case. Buck was allowed to submit his separation recommendation to the secretary of the Navy, manpower and reserve affairs, the next step in the separation process. However, the academy cannot remove Standage while the case is being litigated.


(c) 2020 The Capital

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