U.S. Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said Saturday that he did not threaten to resign if President Trump reverses the Navy’s plans to expel Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher from the elite unit in a war crimes case. “Contrary to popular belief, I’m still here. I did not threaten to resign,” Spencer said at a security conference in Halifax. The New York Times reported earlier today that Spencer and the commander Rear Adm. Collin Green had threatened to quit if Trump subverted the process citing administration officials. Reuters reported on Friday that Spencer said Chief Gallagher should face a board of peers “the process matters for good order and discipline.” The events take place amid heightened pressure on Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to come up with a compromise in hopes of persuading the president to change his mind. The Navy is continuing with the disciplinary action against Chief Gallagher, who Trump has vehemently supported. The president wrote in a Twitter post on Thursday that he would personally intervene if the Navy took away the commando’s Trident pin.
Gallagher was accused by SEALs in his platoon of shooting civilians, murdering a captive Islamic State fighter with a hunting knife in Iraq, and threatening to kill SEALS who reported him. The Navy demoted the chief who was convicted of posing for photos with the teenager’s dead body. Administration officials said they hoped that Trump would allow for the proceedings to continue, but it is not clear whether the president will do so. The commando has been supported by conservative lawmakers and media outlets and when his court-martial ended in acquittal on those charges, Trump congratulated him and criticized prosecutors.