The former Navy secretary who was fired by the Trump administration over a plan that would have allowed disgraced Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher to retire without losing his SEAL status endorsed Democrat Michael Bloomberg for president on Friday.
Richard V. Spencer made the endorsement saying the US needs a leader with integrity who would have ‘a steady hand on the wheel’.
His announcement came during a campaign event at a maritime center and museum in Norfolk, Virginia.
Spencer said he is a ‘lifelong Republican’ who says he’s ‘tremendously concerned’ that democracies around the world, and international alliances, are under threat.
‘I don´t care if you’re a Republican, you´re a Democrat or independent, if we are to sustain this experiment we call democracy, America needs the best leader available,’ Spencer said. ‘I do believe Mike can get it done.’
Spencer was pushed out of his position after he clashed with US President Donald Trump and military leaders over the fate of disgraced Navy Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was accused of war crimes in Iraq.
Spencer was fired in November by Defense Secretary Mark Esper for working a private deal with the White House to ensure that Gallagher be allowed to retire without losing his SEAL status.
Spencer acknowledged in an opinion piece in the Washington Post the day after he handed in his resignation on Nov. 26, that he had made a mistake, but also asserted that Trump´s actions were detrimental to the military.
Spencer said Trump had involved himself in the Gallagher case ‘almost from the start,’ by telephoning Spencer even before the SEAL´s court martial, to ask that Gallagher be moved out of confinement at a Navy brig.
Spencer said he resisted Trump because the presiding judge had decided that confinement was important. Nonetheless, Trump ordered Spencer to transfer Gallagher from the brig to the equivalent of an enlisted barracks.
Spencer said he believes Trump´s interest in the case stemmed partly from the way Gallagher´s defense lawyers and others ‘worked to keep it front and center in the media.’
After Gallagher was acquitted of most charges but convicted of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State extremist in Iraq, he submitted his request to retire.
In Spencer´s telling, that raised three questions for the Navy, including whether Gallagher should be allowed to retire at his current rank. The military jury had said he should be demoted.
Trump, who had tweeted support for Gallagher and stated that his case had been ‘handled very badly from the beginning,’ short-circuited the Navy´s administrative review of Gallagher´s status by ordering Spencer to restore Gallagher´s rank.
This was a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low-level review,’ Spencer wrote. ‘It was also a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.’
Bloomberg, a financial news media mogul and former mayor of New York City, is skipping campaigning for the Democratic nomination in the four early states, has been focusing on states like Virginia that vote in the March 3 ‘Super Tuesday’ contests, when the largest number of delegates are up for grabs.
Speaking in Norfolk, home to one of the largest naval stations, he pledged to support the military, veterans and their families, and to work to rebuild international alliances.
Bloomberg also said he is a leader who has built teams and who listens to staff and doesn’t retaliate against people who disagree with him – a not-so-veiled reference to Trump and his decision to fire Spencer.
‘When a president places more faith in what he is told by Vladimir Putin than by his own director of national intelligence that´s a prescription for disaster,’ he said. ‘Surrounding yourself with a bunch of yes people is the surest way I know to fail.’
Bloomberg is running as a moderate who can bring together Democrats, independents and disaffected Republicans to defeat Trump.
He entered the race among concerns from establishment Democrats about whether former Vice President Joe Biden, who was seen as the leading moderate in the race, would be able to clinch the nomination over more liberal opponents like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and he has spent more than $300 million of his own fortune to air television ads.