Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Rear Adm. Collin Green, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command, have both reportedly vowed that they will either resign or be be fired rather than follow President Donald Trump’s instructions to stop all efforts to revoke Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher’s trident.
The New York Times first reported on Saturday that Spencer and Green had effectively given Trump an ultimatum that could cost them their careers. Reporters Maggie Haberman, Helene Cooper, and Dave Philipps broke the story.
It was not immediately clear what actions the president might take now. Trump has supported Gallagher for months. He ordered that Gallagher be released from pretrial confinement, lent his personal attorney to Gallagher’s defense team, congratulated Gallagher for being acquitted of murder, and ordered the Navy to rescind medals that had been awarded to prosecutors in the case.
The White House did not provide a comment for this story.
This latest development in the long running Eddie Gallagher saga comes a day after Spencer told Reuters in an interview that he believed Gallagher should still face a review board that would recommend to Green whether he keeps his trident, even though the president tweeted on Thursday, “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin.”
Though Spencer acknowledged that Trump is the commander in chief and has the final say on the matter, when asked if the proceedings against Gallagher should continue, Spencer told Reuters, “Yes, I do.”
“I think we have a process in place, which we’re going forward with, and that’s my job,” Reuters quoted Spencer as saying.
Spencer’s spokeswoman Cmdr. Sarah Higgins insisted that the secretary and the White House are on the same page. She also said that Spencer’s comments to Reuters were “in line with current White House guidance.”
As of Saturday afternoon, Spencer had not resigned and was still serving as Navy secretary, Higgins said.
Representatives for Naval Special Warfare Command could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
Gallagher was acquitted of murder in July but a military jury convicted him of posing for a picture with a dead ISIS fighter. He was demoted to first class petty officer, but on Nov. 15 Trump ordered that Gallagher be restored to the rank and paygrade of chief petty officer. His conviction still stands.
Then, the New York Times’ David Philipps reported on Nov. 19 that Green wanted Gallagher and three other SEALs whom he served with to appear before a review board next month, which would recommend whether their tridents would be revoked. The final decision would be made by Green himself.
After Trump’s tweet on Thursday, a senior Navy official told Task & Purpose that plans for the review board were on hold while the Navy waited for a written order cancelling the proceedings.
But on Saturday, Task & Purpose confirmed that the review board is still going forward as planned.
Task & Purpose’s James Clark contributed to this story.