US Defense Secretary Mark Esper sacked Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer on Sunday for his handling of the case of an elite Navy officer convicted of misconduct on the battlefield in Iraq, and later won the support of President Donald Trump.
Esber also decided to retain the officer in question, the commander of special operations, Edward Gallagher, in his rank that would qualify him to join the elite forces, effectively ending the navy’s efforts to subject him to an investigation that might remove him from those forces.
Trump, who has publicly opposed the downgrade of Gallagher, praised the latest measures.
“Eddie will retire in peace with all his accolades”, Trump said on Twitter.
A few days ago, the minister referred to a possible rift with Trump when he told Reuters Gallagher should be investigated.
A military jury convicted Gallagher in July of stabbing a captured and wounded ISIS operative by stabbing him in the neck, but acquitted him of illegally taking a photo of him and his body.
This caused his demotion.
The White House said earlier in November that Trump had reinstated Gallagher and pardoned two officers charged with war crimes in Afghanistan.
“For more than 200 years, presidents have used their power to offer second opportunities to individuals who deserve them, military personnel who have served our country”, the statement said.
“These measures are consistent with this long history”.
A Pentagon spokesman said the Pentagon had confidence in the military justice system.
“The president is part of the military justice system as the supreme leader and has the power to assess things this way”, he said.
Trump said he would nominate the US ambassador to Norway, Kenneth Braithwaite, as Navy secretary to succeed Spencer.