House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) called for the removal of Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly on Monday because of his decision to fire Navy Capt. Brett Crozier for the leak of an alarming memo he wrote regarding a coronavirus outbreak on his ship.

Smith said in a statement:

I disagree strongly with the manner in which acting Secretary of the Navy Modly has handled the COVID-19 outbreak on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. His decision to relieve Captain Crozier was at best an overreaction to the extraordinary steps the Captain took to protect his crew.

Smith issued a statement last week calling Crozier’s firing an “overreaction,” but he conceded that Crozier “clearly went outside the chain of command” and did not “handle the immense pressure appropriately.”

But Smith’s statement on Monday came after Modly addressed the crew of the Roosevelt and heavily suggested Crozier purposely leaked the memo. Modly told the crew:

If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out into the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this. The alternative is that he did this on purpose. And that’s a serious violation of the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] which you are all familiar with.

Smith called Modly’s comment “tone-deaf.”

“Acting Secretary Modly’s decision to address the sailors on the Roosevelt and personally attack Captain Crozier shows a tone-deaf approach more focused on personal ego than one of the calm, steady leadership we so desperately need in this crisis,” he said.

“I no longer have confidence in Acting Secretary Modly’s leadership of the Navy and believe he should be removed from his position.”

Since Crozier’s firing, a chorus of Democrats have called for Modly’s removal, criticized the Trump administration for Crozier’s firing, and called for an investigation.

Trump said Monday during a press conference that Crozier made a mistake by sending the memo in the manner that he did — over an unsecured system to more than 20 people – but said he would look into the case since he had such a stellar career before this incident.

Trump said about Crozier:

…he did a bad thing, sending a letter out and many, many copies — I don’t know, I heard 28 copies, I heard a lot, that’s a lot of copies. Plus the letter was five pages long, I haven’t read the letter but I think it was five pages long single-spaced.

That’s a lot of writing. You know, he’s a captain of a ship, he’s a very important person of a very expensive ship. A nuclear powered ship. He shouldn’t be sending letters like that. But it happens. Sometimes I’ll write a letter and say, ‘I wish I didn’t send it.’ Not too often, but it happens.

I’m going to see maybe we can do something, because I’m not looking to destroy a person’s life who’s had an otherwise stellar career.

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