US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper reportedly asked for the ouster of Spencer on Sunday after learning that the US Navy Secretary had privately proposed to White House officials that if US President Donald Trump would stay out of the debate regarding Gallagher's alleged war crimes, then Spencer would ensure that Gallagher would be able to retire as a Navy SEAL, keeping his rank and pension.
Spencer's private proposal to the Trump administration - which he did not disclose to the Pentagon chief - contradicted his public position, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said, according to The Washington Post.
“Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position [...] I wish Richard well”, Esper said, cited by The Washington Post.
According to the Pentagon spokesman, cited by the media outlet, Esper and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, learned of Spencer’s private offer to the White House earlier this week after speaking with Trump.
Earlier Trump intervened in the cases of Gallagher and two other soldiers, issuing pardons to Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who faced a murder trial next year, and former 1st Lt. Clint Lorance - who was convicted in 2013 in the murder of two unarmed men in Afghanistan - and restored the Navy SEAL rank of Edward Gallagher, who was recently demoted following an acquittal in the murder charges against him.
Golsteyn had been set to stand trial for killing a detained terrorist bomb-maker in Afghanistan, after declaring his fear the prisoner would continue to threaten American troops.
Lorance was convicted earlier on charges that he ordered his troops to shoot three men on a motorcycle speeding in their direction. Lorance served over six years of a 19-year sentence for the 2012 incident in Afghanistan.
Gallagher had been demoted following a July conviction for posing in a photo with the body of a dead terrorist during a 2017 deployment in Iraq, but was cleared of murder charges after fatally stabbing the restrained captive.