Esper said he had lost confidence in Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and alleged that Spencer proposed a deal with the White House behind his back to resolve the SEAL’s case. Trump has championed the matter of Navy Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who was acquitted of murder in the stabbing death of an Islamic State militant captive but convicted of posing with the corpse while in Iraq in 2017.

Gallagher was demoted from chief petty officer to a 1st class petty officer after his conviction by a military jury. Trump, however, restored Gallagher’s rank this month.

On Wednesday, the Navy had notified Gallagher that he would face a Navy SEAL review board to determine if he should be allowed to remain in the elite force. While Trump then tweeted that he would not allow the Navy to remove Gallagher from the SEALs by taking away his Trident Pin, which designates a SEAL member, the White House told the Navy it could proceed as planned, according to a Navy officer who spoke on condition of anonymity .

Spencer, on Saturday , said that he did not consider a tweet by Trump a formal order to stop the Navy review board.

But on Sunday, Esper said he had learned that Spencer had “privately” proposed to the White House that Gallagher be allowed to retire without losing his status as a SEAL.

Esper also directed on Sunday that Gallagher be allowed to retire at the end of this month, and that the Navy review board that was scheduled to hear his case be canceled. At Esper’s direction, Gallagher will be allowed to retire as a SEAL at his current rank.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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