UPDATE: Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer has denied the earlier New York Times report. He delivered the denial from the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, where he is a keynote speaker: “Contrary to popular belief, I am still here. I did not threaten to resign. We are here to talk about external threats and Eddie Gallagher is not one of them.” The denial was also posted to his official Twitter account.
ORIGINAL: The secretary of the Navy and the admiral who directs the SEALs have threatened to resign or face termination if President Trump halts plans to expel a commando from the elite unit in a war crimes case, administration officials stated Saturday.
The Navy is advancing with the disciplinary plans against the commando, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, which includes Mr. Trump as one of his most vocal supporters. After modifying a demotion in recent days, the president mentioned on Thursday that he would intrude again in the case, saying that the sailor should endure in the unit.
The fulminations by the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, and the commander, Rear Adm. Collin Green, are a rare instance of pushback against Mr. Trump from members of the Defense Department. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, struggled to come up with a face-saving compromise this past week in the optimism that Mr. Trump could be convinced to change his mind.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump, citing the pin that purports membership in an elite force, said on Twitter that “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin.” He added: “This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”
One argument that officials stated may be relied on is the assumption that a tweet does not enact a formal presidential order.
Mr. Esper and General Milley communicated to the president that if he matched up that tweet with a direct order, there would be enormous consequences. Mr. Trump would lose Mr. Spencer and Admiral Green, further enrage his top military leadership and do incalculable damage to decades of military judicial doctrine, according to administration officials.