Stories

Ousted Navy Secretary Richard Spencer hits back at Trump on CBS

Ousted Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told CBS News Monday that President Trump’s intervention in a case involving disgraced Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher sends the message "that you can get away with things."

Details: In his first TV interview since he was fired Sunday for his handling of Gallagher's case, Spencer told CBS journalist David Martin that Trump shouldn't have tried to stop the Pentagon review of the Navy SEAL's case and that he doesn't think he "really understands the full definition of a war fighter."

  • "A war fighter is a profession of arms, and a profession of arms has standards that they have to be held to, and they hold themselves to," Spencer said.

He also defended his conduct as Navy secretary.

SPENCER: Well, what do I stand for as secretary of the Navy? Good order and discipline of the United States Navy. That's a prime tenet. This, in fact, erodes that. 
MARTIN: What's wrong with following a lawful order from the commander in chief? 
SPENCER: Nothing. Everyone should follow a lawful order. That's good order and discipline. I could not in my conscience do this. 

The big picture: Gallagher was acquitted of a murder charge in the stabbing death of an Islamic State militant captive, but a military jury convicted him of posing with the corpse while in Iraq in 2017. Spencer was advocating for a peer-to-peer review process that could have stripped Gallagher of his Trident Pin, which designates him as a Navy SEAL.

  • Trump tweeted Thursday: "The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!"
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during a press conference earlier Monday that the president ordered him to allow Gallagher to retire with his Trident. This allows the chief petty officer to retire as a SEAL instead of being expelled from the elite unit.

Go deeper:

Never miss a major politics story

Get breaking news alerts sent directly to your inbox