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Defense Chief 'Flabbergasted' by Navy Leader on SEAL Case

Mark Esper also confirms that Trump ordered him to protect SEAL Edward Gallagher
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2019 2:13 PM CST
Trump Ordered Defense Chief to Protect SEAL's Rank
Secretary for Defense Mark Esper speaks during a media conference after a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019.   (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

(Newser) – The saga of the newly ousted Navy commander and a Navy SEAL continues to unfold. On Monday, defense chief Mark Esper revealed that President Trump ordered him to make sure Edward Gallagher was allowed to retire as a SEAL with full benefits, reports the Hill. "I spoke with the President on Sunday," said Esper. "He gave me the order that Eddie Gallagher will retain his Trident pin." Trump had tweeted his desire to that effect last week, but Esper's revelation is the first confirmation that the president gave him a direct order to ensure it happened, notes the AP. Gallagher had been accused of war crimes, but he was acquitted of all charges except for posing with the corpse of an Islamic State militant. After his court case, the Navy planned to review his status as a SEAL before Trump stepped in.

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Also Monday, Esper defended his decision to fire Navy chief Richard V. Spencer over his handling of the matter, and in doing so he accused Spencer of trying to arrange a secret deal with White House officials to keep Trump out of the case. He "proposed a deal whereby if the president allowed the Navy to handle the case, he would guarantee that Eddie Gallagher would be restored to rank, allowed to retain his Trident and permitted to retire," said Esper. The defense chief says Spencer did not clear this plan with him, and he pronounced himself "flabbergasted" by it, per the Washington Post. Gallagher is indeed expected to retire at the end of the month with his full SEAL status. (In his final letter to Trump, Spencer said he and the president disagreed about "good order and discipline.")

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