The dramatic ouster of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer this weekend is part of a much bigger crisis: one that involves a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes, competing Pentagon and White House stories, congressional anger, and a president who has waded into one of the most sensitive and politically charged military justice cases in decades.
The end of Spencer’s career is inextricably linked with the trial of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was accused of murdering an ISIS captive, shooting civilians, and threatening those in his charge who gave their superiors information on him during his time in Iraq. He was acquitted by military jury of those charges in July, but the Navy still demoted him after he was found guilty of posing in a photo next to the dead body of the teenage detainee.
President Donald Trump took a keen interest in Gallagher’s case. Nine days ago, he signed an order directing the restoration of the commando’s previous rank. Then on Thursday, the president tweeted that the Navy should stop a review into whether or not to boot Gallagher out of the elite unit, which would lead to the loss of the coveted gold Trident pin.