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Trump Weighs in on Navy Captain Incident After Secretary Apologizes for Speech

“You have two good people and they’re arguing… I’m good at settling these arguments. So I may look into it in great detail, in detail and I’ll be able to figure it out very fast.”

President Donald Trump publicly commented on an ongoing situation involving Navy Capt. Brett Cozier on Monday. The captain was relieved of his command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday after an email he wrote to his superiors was leaked to the media. Trump had previously defended the dismissal in remarks, but Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly ridiculed the captain in a speech aboard the aircraft carrier Sunday, prompting backlash and forcing an apology on Monday.

Leak After Leak

Modly called Crozier “too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer” while speaking to the crew of the Roosevelt. He also decried Crozier’s decision to go to the media with the email, in which the captain begged his superiors to let his ship dock to evacuate the COVID-19-stricken crew, The New York Times reported.

“There is never a situation where you should consider the media part of your chain of command,” Modly said. “You can jump the chain of command if you want and take the consequences. You can disobey the chain of command and take the consequences, but there is no situation where you go to the media.”

It is still uncertain who provided the email to the media, but Cozier’s email was sent unclassified to a number of recipients. Audio of Modly’s speech to the crew in Guam leaked almost as soon as it was delivered. 

“I stand by every word I said, even, regrettably any profanity that may have been used for emphasis,” Modly responded after critics latched on to the content of the address. “Anyone who has served on a Navy ship would understand. I ask, but don’t expect, that people read them in their entirety.”

Later Monday evening, Modly issued a formal apology, perhaps prompted by Trump’s willingness to get involved in the controversy. 

“I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused. I also want to apologize directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused.”

Modly added, “I believe, precisely because he is not naive or stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship.”

Trump to the Rescue?

Initially, Trump defended the decision to relieve Cozier of his command. 

“I thought it was terrible, what he did, to write a letter. I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear powered. And he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter,” Trump said.

Sandwiched in-between Modly’s statements on Monday, Trump broached the topic once again, offering to possibly use his position to solve the problem, Reuters reported.

“You have two good people and they’re arguing… I’m good at settling these arguments. So I may look into it in great detail, in detail and I’ll be able to figure it out very fast.”

Trump called the leaked communication from Cozier a “mistake,” but the captain’s career had been “very good. So, I’m going to get involved and see exactly what’s going on there, because I don’t want to destroy somebody for having a bad day.”

It would not be the first time Trump has intervened in Navy personnel matters. In the case of war criminal and former Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, Trump successfully forced Navy officials to restore Gallagher’s rank and SEAL Trident insignia.

In the case of Cozier, the situation is different as he has not been charged for crimes nor demoted or fired. Instead, the Navy said he would be reassigned at some point in the future.

Best Interests for His Crew

His crew members expressed their disapproval of the Navy secretary’s decision by staging an poignant sendoff for their captain. After he was relieved, Crozier announced he had tested positive for COVID-19. In total, 173 of his sailors tested positive as well. 

An outpouring of support for Cozier came from those who served under him, politicians, and his colleagues. Former Capt. Jeff Craig served as a second in command for the Roosevelt under Cozier. The two also went to the Naval Academy together.

“Chopper (Cozier) always had the best interests of his crew forefront. I’m sure that was the case here,” Craig said. “Chopper’s character is not prone to hasty or uneducated decision making. Anything he did was well thought out.”

Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis is Managing Editor for The Osage County Herald-Chronicle in Kansas and also covers International news for Inside Over, a Milan-based global affairs publication. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Outside of writing, he enjoys photography and one day hopes to return to video production. Learn more about him at his website danieldavis.la.

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