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Navy Secretary Richard Spencer threatened to resign, a charge he denies, if the Navy was not allowed to go through with an administrative review board next month to determine if Eddie Gallagher could remain a SEAL, multiple Navy officials confirmed to Fox News.
Earlier Saturday, The New York Times reported that along with Spencer, Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Commander Rear Adm. Collin Green also threatened to resign if the Navy carries out the request of President Trump to restore Gallagher’s rank to chief petty officer after he was demoted last summer. Gallagher was found not guilty of murdering an Islamic State (ISIS) fighter during a 2017 deployment to Iraq but was convicted of posing for a photo with the dead corpse.
Collin Green and Richard Spencer
However, officials say that The Times was inaccurate in reporting that Green threatened to resign over the Gallagher disagreement. Only Spencer — not Green — made such a threat, they said.
But Spencer pushed back on claims that he could possibly resign.
“I would like to further state that in no, way, shape, or form did I ever threat to resign,” he tweeted Saturday night. “That has been incorrectly reported in the press.”
Gallagher was found not guilty of murdering an ISIS militant during the same deployment to Iraq. His case and trial made international headlines and caught the attention of President Trump, who tweeted on Wednesday in support of Gallagher.
“The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” Trump said.
“This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!” he added. The Trident pin signifies membership of the elite SEAL force.
Spencer, a political appointee and civilian, has threatened to resign because he wants to see the process play out formally inside the Pentagon, according to officials.
“A tweet is not a written order,” one official said about the president telling the SEALs over Twitter this week not to remove Gallagher from the SEAL teams and take his Trident pin away.
However, Spencer denied threatening to resign at a defense conference in Halifax, Canada, on Saturday, according to reporters present.
“I’m still here, I did not threaten to resign, we’re here to talk about external threats and Eddie Gallagher is not one of them,” Spencer said during a panel on the Arctic. Spencer told reporters he works at the pleasure of the president.
There is concern at the Pentagon that the president is micromanaging the military justice system, according to multiple officials who asked not to be identified, this following the president’s recent pardons issued to two Army officers, as well as ordering Gallagher’s rank be restored.
Officials say the president should not be deciding who can or cannot be a Navy SEAL.
However, Spencer told reporters the president has every right to intervene in military justice proceedings.
“The president of the United States is the commander in chief, he’s involved in every aspect of government and he can make decisions and do things and give orders as he deems appropriate,” he said.
Spencer said that if he receives official orders — not in the form of a tweet — the disciplinary process against Gallagher will cease.
“Good order and discipline is also obeying orders from the president of the United States,” he said.
On Nov. 15, Trump granted clemency to Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, six years after he was found guilty of murder for ordering his soldiers to open fire and kill three men in Afghanistan. His supporters say they killed Taliban fighters. However, nine members of his unit testified against him, saying the men were innocent.
Trump also granted clemency to Maj. Matt Golsteyn, a former Green Beret, and said the murder charges will be dropped against him. Golsteyn was charged in the 2010 premeditated murder of a suspected Taliban bomb maker. His trial was expected to begin next month.
On Thursday, Gallagher’s laywer Tim Parlatore appeared on “Fox & Friends” and called out Green, whom he said is exhibiting cowardice and hubris in holding a board review of Gallagher.
“If Admiral Green really wants to do this, he shouldn’t try and put people in the middle to put the blame on them,” Parlatore said. “He shouldn’t be a coward like that. He should stand up and do it himself.”
“There’s been some who say that he shouldn’t have his rank restored but all of them cite reasons that show that they haven’t paid any attention to the case whatsoever,” Parlatore added. “His rank was taken away for something that… — nobody else in the history of the SEAL teams or the military has ever had general court-martial conviction for a photo like this.”
Fox News’ Nick Givas and Melissa Leon contributed to this report.