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Fired Navy secretary takes aim at President Trump in exit interview: 'Don't think he really understands the definition of a warfighter'

Said Trump's intervention 'erodes' trust in US military

Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Richard Spencer, the Navy secretary who was fired on Sunday, took a shot at President Donald Trump in his first interview since his headline-grabbing departure.

Spencer, himself a veteran of the Marine Corps, told CBS News that Trump's decision to intervene in the case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher — to restore Gallagher's rank and to ensure he gets to retire as a SEAL — proves he does not "understand the definition of a warfighter."

"I don't think he really understands the definition of a warfighter," Spencer said. "A warfighter is a profession of arms. And a profession of arms has standards that they have to be held to, and they hold themselves to."

Spencer added that Trump's intervention "erodes" trust in the U.S. military and the principles, like "good order and discipline," on which the U.S. military stands. He told CBS News that Trump's actions also send a dark message to U.S. troops: "That you can get away with things."

Fired Navy secretary says Trump intervention "erodes" Navy discipline www.youtube.com

Earlier this month, Trump signed an executive order pardoning three military servicemen, including Gallagher, who was convicted of posing with the dead body of an ISIS solider during a highly publicized trial.

Gallagher had been charged with murder, attempted murder, obstruction of justice, among other crimes, for actions during the 2017 battle of Mosul.

Ultimately, Gallagher was demoted and faced retiring from the Navy without his Trident pin, the Navy's special insignia worn by SEAL operators. Trump's actions reversed Gallagher's demotion, and he planned further intervention to ensure Gallagher would retire with full SEAL honors.

However, senior members of military leadership disagreed with Trump's intervention, believing that Gallagher should face consequences for his actions in Mosul.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday that Spencer attempted to make a secret agreement with the White House that would allow Trump's wishes to be kept if the president ultimately allowed the Navy to handle the Gallagher case. Esper said he asked for Spencer's resignation for violating the chain of command by going directly to the White House, the Washington Post reported.

Spencer's departure became imminent over the weekend after reports claimed had had threatened to resign. On Monday, Spencer told CBS he did no such thing.

"I never threatened to resign. ... I don't threaten," he said. "I got fired."

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