(NBC News) – Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed Monday that President Trump gave him a direct order to let Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, recently acquitted of murder and war crimes, retire as a Navy SEAL.
Gallagher was accused of stabbing an already wounded ISIS fighter to death and shooting two civilians from a sniper’s perch. He was acquitted of those charges, but convicted of posing for pictures with the corpse of an ISIS prisoner.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was fired over the weekend after refusing to halt a planned review of Gallagher’s status.
Trump tweeted Thursday “the Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” saying the case was “handled very badly from the beginning.”
Spencer said that he did not view the tweet as a formal order, and the review would continue.
Secretary Asper asked for Spencer’s resignation on Sunday.
In a blistering resignation letter, Spencer outlined his objection to the president’s stance on the Gallagher case.
“In regards to the key principle of good order and discipline, I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Spencer wrote.
“I think what I’m doing is sticking up for our armed forces, and there’s never been a President that’s going to stick up for them and has like I have,” Mr. Trump said when questioned about the matter Monday.
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