Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer forced out amid controversy over SEAL case

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer has been pushed out over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes. Spencer is seen here testifying during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April. (Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer has been pushed out over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes. Spencer is seen here testifying during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April. (Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

Richard V. Spencer has been terminated as Secretary of the Navy, after his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL came under rebuke by the Secretary of Defense.

“Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper has asked for the resignation of Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer after losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher,” the Defense Department said in a statement on Sunday.

Gallagher is the Navy SEAL who was acquitted of murdering a wounded Islamic State militant in Iraq in 2017, but was later convicted of posing with the body of the dead prisoner.

The Washington Post reports that Esper learned that Spencer had privately made an offer to the White House to allow Gallagher to retire as a Navy SEAL with his Trident insignia if the Trump administration would agree to not interfere with the proceedings against Gallagher.

The Trident pin is the tangible symbol of the SEALs. The pins are grueling to earn and can be lost for poor performance, among other reasons.

Esper said in a statement to the Post that he was “deeply troubled” by Spencer’s conduct. “Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position,” he said. “I wish Richard well.”

As NPR reported last week, though Gallagher avoided a prison sentence, his demotion will affect both his salary and his pension after his service hits the 20-year mark.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.