Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer resigned at the request of Defense Secretary Mark Esper over his handling of the case of Navy SEAL Richard Gallagher who was convicted of posing for a photo with an Islamic State fighter's corpse. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Defense Secretary Mark Esper asked for the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer on Sunday, citing his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL found guilty of posing for photos with a dead prisoner of war.
Esper lost "trust and confidence" in Spencer after he learned the Navy secretary had contradicted his public position by privately proposing to the White House that President Donald Trump allow the Navy to conduct an internal review of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher and he would then restore his rank and allow him to retire with his Trident pin.
"I am deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior DOD official," said Esper. "Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position. I wish Richard well."
The decision comes one day after Spencer denied reports that he had threatened to resign after President Donald Trump intervened in Gallagher's case.
In July, Gallagher was acquitted of war crimes charges that included murdering a teenage Islamic State captive, shooting civilians and threatening those who gave their superiors information on him during his time in Iraq. He was convicted of posing for a photo with the IS fighter's dead body and sentenced to four months confinement and loss of rank.
The Navy's top officer upheld the punishment last month, but Trump restored Gallagher's rank to E-7 and later tweeted that the Navy would not remove his Trident pin.
On Sunday, the Pentagon said that "given the events of the last few days" Esper had directed that Gallagher retain his pin.
Trump said he thanked Spencer for his service and confirmed that Gallagher will "retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned, including his Trident Pin."
He said Spencer was relieved of his position due to cost overruns and his dissatisfaction with how the Navy handled the Gallagher situation.
"I was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher's trial was handled by the Navy," Trump said via Twitter. "He was treated very badly but, despite, this, was completely exonerated on all major charges."
In his resignation letter, Spencer said he couldn't in good conscience continue to serve under Trump due to their conflict of opinions on the issue.
"As Secretary of the Navy, one of the most important responsibilities I have to our people is to maintain good order and discipline throughout the ranks. I regard this as deadly serious business," he wrote. "Unfortunately, it has become apparent in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline."
Undersecretary of the Navy Tom Modley will serve as acting Navy secretary and Trump said he will nominate U.S. Ambassador to Norway Kenneth Braithwaite to be the next secretary.
"A man of great achievement and success, I know Ken will do an outstanding job!" Trump said.