Esper says Trump ordered him to allow SEAL to keep status

In this Saturday, Nov. 23, photo, U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer fields questions at a media availability at the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has fired the Navy's top official over his handling of the case of a SEAL accused of war crimes who President Donald Trump has defended. Esper said on Sunday, Nov. 24, that he had lost confidence in Spencer and alleged that Spencer proposed a deal with the White House behind his back to resolve the SEAL's case. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper says President Donald Trump gave him a direct order that a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes in Iraq be allowed to retire without losing his SEAL status.

Esper told reporters at the Pentagon Monday that was the reason he announced Sunday evening that Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher would be allowed to retire with his Trident Pin, retaining his status as a SEAL.

Esper also accused Navy Secretary Richard Spencer of secretly offering to the White House to rig the Navy disciplinary process to ensure that Gallagher not lose his Trident. Esper fired Spencer on Sunday.

Gallagher was acquitted of murder in the stabbing death of an Islamic State militant captive but convicted of posing with the corpse while in Iraq in 2017.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Recommended for you