Eddie Gallagher controversy: Esper fires Navy secretary, SEAL will keep Trident pin, Pentagon says

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Fox News): Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer Sunday over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL who posed for a photo next to an Islamic State terrorist’s corpse in Iraq, and the SEAL will be able to keep his Trident pin, a Pentagon spokesman said Sunday.

“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,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement Sunday.

RELATED: Trump says Navy won’t remove Gallagher’s SEAL designation

Controversy continued to swirl around whether or not the Navy would strip Gallagher of his Trident pin, ousting him from the prestigious SEALs after he was demoted from chief petty officer to a 1st class petty officer following his conviction in July. President Trump this month restored Gallagher’s rank and ordered that the Navy halt its internal review of Gallagher’s actions from 2017 that resulted in a high-profile war crimes case, for which he was found not guilty of the murder of an Islamic State fighter in Iraq.

Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley spoke to Trump on Friday with the intention of persuading the president to allow the Trident review board to go forward with its inquiry. Instead, Esper learned that Spencer previously and privately proposed to the White House – contrary to Spencer’s public position – to restore Gallagher’s rank and let him retire with his Trident pin, the Pentagon said. When Esper recently asked, Spencer confirmed that he’d never informed the defense secretary about his private proposal.

Spencer asked Trump to let the Navy review board go forward, promising that the board would, in the end, allow Gallagher to keep his Trident and rank, effectively alluding to his willingness to fix the results of the board usually comprised of the defendant’s peers, a senior U.S. official told Fox News. Trump rejected the offer and said, “no, we’re done,” prompting the president to write a series of tweets doubling down on his efforts to halt the review, the official added.

Multiple Navy officials told Fox News that Spencer had threatened to resign if the military branch was not allowed to go through with the administrative review board on the Gallagher matter. Spencer, speaking at an international security forum in Canada on Saturday, denied that claim and said that he did not consider a tweet by Trump an order and would need a formal order to stop the Navy review board, scheduled to begin Dec. 2.

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