If there is any one lesson to draw from his first term in office, President Trump may say that it’s to be more vigilant with appointments to his administration given deep state assaults he has faced.
This was seen in the Democratic Party’s one-sided dog and pony impeachment show trial and more recently with fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who undermined the president’s will regarding Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher.
Gallagher, a highly decorated combat veteran who served eight tours of duty, was hit with war crimes charges and acquitted of multiple charges of murder in a trial marred by accusations of prosecutorial misconduct.
In the end, he was convicted of posing for a photograph with a dead ISIS combatant, which is considered a breach of etiquette.
As commander in chief, Trump intervened in response to reports that Gallagher would be stripped of his Navy SEAL trident.
He tweeted: “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”
The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2019
President Trump ordered Defense Secretary Mark Esper to allow Gallagher, who was to undergo a peer-review process to determine if he was still suitable to be a SEAL, to retire without losing his SEAL status.
After learning that Spencer had engaged in back channel negotiations with the White House that would have allowed a review of Gallagher to proceed, Esper fired Spencer.
Despite being the supreme commander of the U.S. armed forces, the Associated Press reported that Trump’s decisions “have dismayed some military officials, who fear the actions undermine the military justice system.”
Spencer, who was appointed by Trump, refused to go quietly after being fired, opting to pen an op-ed run by the Washington Post.
“It is highly irregular for a secretary to become deeply involved in most personnel matters,” Spencer wrote.
He noted that Trump intervened earlier in the case to have Gallagher released from the Navy brig.
“Before the trial began, in March, I received two calls from the president asking me to lift Gallagher’s confinement in a Navy brig,” Spencer explained. “I pushed back twice, because the presiding judge, acting on information about the accused’s conduct, had decided that confinement was important.”
In effect, he placed the opinion of a judge above that of the president of the United States.
The fired Navy secretary was clear he placed no value on Trump’s views, condemning his decision to intervene.
“This was a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low-level review,” Spencer said. “It was also a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.”
He also admitted that he “tried to find a way” to get Gallagher before a peer review board, despite the wishes of the man to whom he reports.
“I tried to find a way that would prevent the president from further involvement while trying all avenues to get Gallagher’s file in front of a peer-review board,” Spencer said.
And did so “without personally consulting” the Defense secretary.
More importantly, Spencer said he disregarded Trump’s will in the case, as denoted in the president’s tweet.
“I recognized that the tweet revealed the president’s intent. But I did not believe it to be an official order, chiefly because every action taken by the president in the case so far had either been a verbal or written command,” Spencer said.
And that, in a nutshell, is what President Trump is up against on a daily basis with the political class in Washington, DC.
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