World

Sacked Navy chief blasts Trump over intervention in op-ed

He calls US President's intervention in war crimes case 'shocking'

WASHINGTON: Mr Richard Spencer, who was fired as Navy Secretary for his handling of a Seal war crimes case championed by President Donald Trump, wrote on Wednesday that the commander in chief "has very little understanding" of how the US military works.

The accusation came in an opinion piece published on The Washington Post's website on Wednesday evening, three days after he was fired.

He called Mr Trump's intervention in the case of Navy Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher "shocking" and unprecedented.

Mr Spencer was fired on Sunday by Defence Secretary Mark Esper for working a private deal with the White House to ensure Mr Gallagher be allowed to retire without losing his Seal status.

In his Post article, Mr Spencer acknowledged his mistake but asserted Mr Trump's actions were detrimental to the military. He said Mr Trump had involved himself in the Gallagher case "almost from the start", by telephoning Mr Spencer even before the Seal's court martial started to ask Mr Gallagher be moved out of confinement at a Navy brig (prison).

Mr Spencer said he resisted Mr Trump because the presiding judge had decided that confinement was important.

Still, Mr Trump ordered Mr Spencer to transfer Mr Gallagher from the brig to the equivalent of an enlisted barracks.

Mr Spencer said he believes Mr Trump's interest in the case stemmed partly from the way Mr Gallagher's defence lawyers and others "worked to keep it front and centre in the media".

POSING WITH CORPSE

After Mr Gallagher was acquitted of most charges but convicted of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighter in Iraq, he submitted his request to retire.

In Mr Spencer's telling, that raised three questions for the Navy, including whether Mr Gallagher should be allowed to retire at his current rank. The military jury had said he should be demoted.

Mr Trump, who had tweeted support for Mr Gallagher and stated his case had been "handled very badly from the beginning", short-circuited the Navy's administrative review of Mr Gallagher's status by ordering Mr Spencer to restore Mr Gallagher's rank.

"This was a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low-level review," Mr Spencer wrote. "It was also a reminder that the President has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices."

Earlier on Wednesday, the Navy said it had cancelled the peer-review boards for three Seal officers who supervised Mr Gallagher during the Iraq deployment that gave rise to the war crimes charges.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the case was becoming a distraction for the commando force, known for its quiet professionalism but recently roiled with controversy.

The decision was the latest twist in the Gallagher matter.

Mr Trump has made no mention of the three Seal officers also ordered to be reviewed. - AP

WORLD