Trump Names Kenneth Braithwaite to Replace Fired Navy Secretary

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
November 24, 2019Updated: November 25, 2019

President Donald Trump announced on Nov. 24 that he intends to nominate Kenneth Braithwaite, the ambassador to Norway, to replace Navy Secretary Richard Spencer after Spencer was asked earlier in the day to resign over his handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s case.

Trump made the announcement on Twitter on the evening of Nov. 24, just hours after Spencer was asked to resign by Defense Secretary Mark Esper. A Pentagon spokesperson said Esper had asked for Spencer’s resignation after “losing trust and confidence” in him due to “his lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.”

Esper said he lost confidence in Spencer after the Navy secretary tried to make a private deal with White House officials without telling him, the spokesperson said. The deal would allow the Navy to conduct an internal review of Gallagher but with no changes to the SEAL’s rank and his Trident pin.

“I am deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior DOD official,” Esper said in a statement. “Unfortunately, as a result, I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position.”

Later in the day, Trump said he wasn’t pleased with the way the Navy was pursuing Gallagher’s case, saying that Gallagher “was treated very badly but, despite this, was completely exonerated on all major charges. I then restored Eddie’s rank,” referring to his recent order to restore Gallagher’s rank after a trial in which he was found not guilty of killing a wounded ISIS terrorist.

The Navy appeared to be taking steps to remove Gallagher from the SEAL designation after Trump restored his rank. Gallagher’s lawyers accused the Navy of acting in retaliation to Trump’s actions and of defying the president’s actions.

Trump also cited Spencer’s management of the Navy for his removal, saying that he wasn’t happy that the “large cost overruns from past administration’s contracting procedures were not addressed to my satisfaction.”

Epoch Times Photo
Kenneth J. Braithwaite, the current U.S. Ambassador to Norway, has been tapped to become the next Navy secretary. (State Department)

Trump then wrote that Braithwaite, who is also a retired Navy rear admiral, will be nominated as the next Navy secretary.

“Admiral and now Ambassador to Norway Ken Braithwaite will be nominated by me to be the new Secretary of the Navy. A man of great achievement and success, I know Ken will do an outstanding job!” he said.

Trump received mixed reactions for his decision to intervene in Gallagher’s case. The president has demanded that Gallagher be allowed to keep his SEAL title and Trident pin, but Spencer wanted to go forward with the Navy internal review.

In his resignation letter obtained by media outlets (pdf), Spencer said he couldn’t continue to serve due to moral reservations he had due to a difference in understanding with Trump in regard to the principle of “good order and discipline,” likely referring to Gallagher’s case.

“I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag, and my faith,” Spencer wrote.

The Pentagon spokesperson also said that “given the events of the last few days, Secretary Esper has directed that Gallagher retain his Trident pin.”

He said that Navy Under Secretary Thomas Modly will act as Navy secretary in the interim.