Monday, April 6, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to have it both ways on the "stupid" Navy captain fired on his orders.

Thomas Modly is the acting Secretary of the Navy. He was appointed by Trump after the firing of his predecessor, Richard Spencer, in the aftermath of a scandal in which Trump gave clemency to a convicted war criminal whose family espoused pro-Trump views on a Fox News program that Trump watches.

Today, Modly addressed the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the aircraft carrier whose crew is being disembarked and isolated against COVID-19 infection on the urgent request of its commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier. In an unusual step, Modly himself relieved Crozier of command—skipping the usual military chain of command. 

Modly later admitted to a friend that he had done so because Trump personally demanded it. "Breaking news: Trump wants him fired," Modly said, according to the Washington Post.

In his 15-minute message to the crew, Modly said that Crozier was either "too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this." At that point (1:45) in a now-viral recording of the announcement over the ship's public address system, an unidentified sailor can be heard shouting "What the fuck?!"

Modly also scolded the crew for their cheers of support for Crozier, and complained about the "evil" criticism he's endured as a result.

At a press briefing today, Trump backed up Modly, but insisted that he would "look into" the matter. He said that he was now "hearing good things about both people." He characterized the whole matter as an "argument" that he could help "settle."

Again, Crozier was fired on Trump's direct instruction, and Trump had already publicly called Crozier "terrible."

Crozier, whose offense was writing a leaked letter begging his military superiors to allow his sailors to be given medical treatment and isolation ashore, remains the only person Trump has disciplined for the federal government's response to COVID-19.

Why does this matter?

  • It's wrong for a president to discipline military officers for political reasons.
  • It's wrong to blame your own mistakes on subordinates.
  • The health and safety of the people who defend the United States are more important than Donald Trump's political needs.