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'Still Here': US Navy Chief Denies Resigning Amid Spat With Trump Over SEAL Case

© AP Photo / Julie WatsonNavy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, right, walks with his wife, Andrea Gallagher, as they arrive to military court on Naval Base San Diego, Thursday, June 20, 2019, in San Diego.
Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, right, walks with his wife, Andrea Gallagher, as they arrive to military court on Naval Base San Diego, Thursday, June 20, 2019, in San Diego.  - Sputnik International
Trump's decision to pardon several servicemen accused of war crimes has already caused a stir among some people in the US military and his most recent move to intervene in the SEAL status review process can only complicate the situation.

US Navy Secretary Richard Spencer has officially denied rumours that he has threatened to resign if President Donald Trump decides to terminate the review process for the SEAL status of Edward Gallagher, a chief petty officer who was recently pardoned by POTUS of his misconduct during deployment.

"Contrary to popular belief, I am still here. I did not threaten to resign", he stated.

His alleged plans to resign were reported by The New York Times, citing unnamed administration officials. The report came in the wake of Spencer's comment that he wants to conduct a panel review of Gallagher's SEAL status despite POTUS making statements on Twitter that he would not allow the Navy to take away the serviceman's Trident Pin – a symbol of being a SEAL.

At the same time, the Navy chief admitted that the military would have to abide by Trump's decision if he opts to defend Gallagher's SEAL status. He noted, though, that a Twitter post can't be considered an official order and therefore plans to hold a panel review of Gallagher's case remain in force.

"I believe the process matters for good order and discipline. If the president requests to stop the process, the process stops. Good order and discipline is also obeying orders from the president of the United States", he explained.

Rift in the US Military

Gallagher was stripped of his rank after a court-martial found him guilty of discrediting the US military by posing in a photo with a dead Daesh* fighter, but acquitted him of charges of murdering the terrorist prisoner and of shooting unarmed civilians during his deployment in Mosul, Iraq in 2017, which would have qualified as a war crime.

The SEAL was recently restored in rank by a clemency issued by President Trump, who criticised the case for treating Gallagher unfairly from the start. The decision caused a rift in the military, which has organised a panel scheduled for 5 December to review Gallagher's status as a member of the elite SEAL force. Trump, however, has vowed to oppose the plans to strip him of his SEAL membership.

US Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher prepares to answer a question from the media - Sputnik International
US Navy SEAL Accused of War Crimes Will Retain His Elite Rank, Trump Vows

According to a report by The New York Times, citing anonymous administration officials, Defence Secretary Mark Esper and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley tried to convince Trump not to intervene in the process. They argued that otherwise, he could lose both Navy chief Spencer and the commander of the SEALs, Collin Green, who previously fumed with anger over Trump's clemency for Gallagher. It's unclear whether POTUS has decided to heed their advice or not.

*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia

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