President Donald Trump on Saturday said it was “inappropriate” for the former USS Theodore Roosevelt commander to widely send a letter warning that action was needed to save the lives of his crew from an outbreak of coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier.
Capt. Brett Crozier was relieved of his command this week by acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, for what Modly called “poor judgment,” going outside the chain of command, and too widely disseminating the memo over an unsecured system.
“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. He could call and ask and suggest,” Trump told reporters Saturday during a White House briefing on coronavirus.
Trump added, “I thought it looked terrible, to be honest with you.”
He also criticized the carrier for its scheduled port visit in early March to Vietnam.
Although Trump appeared to suggest that the now-ousted commander of the ship was responsible for that port call in Vietnam, the Navy’s top admiral, Adm. Mike Gilday, told reporters last month that the decision to proceed with that port visit was made by a much more senior officer, the commander of US Indo-Pacific Command.
The President further said that although the decision to dismiss Crozier was not his own, he agrees with that decision “100%.”
CNN previously reported that as of Saturday, 155 sailors from the Roosevelt have tested positive for the virus, according to the Navy.
Two days after the Acting Navy Secretary fired Crozier for too widely disseminating a letter calling for the urgent evacuation of the aircraft carrier’s crew, the Navy has now only met about 57% of its own scheduled evacuation target set for the end of Friday.
Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Friday that “the goal was to have a total of 2,700 off the ship” by Friday, the Navy said Saturday it had only moved 1,548 sailors ashore.
In his memo sent earlier this week, Crozier pleaded with Navy leaders that “decisive action is required” here to remove a majority of the ship’s personnel and isolate them for two weeks. The letter was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday.
Modly on Thursday said Crozier was “absolutely correct” in raising his concerns, but “it was the way in which he did it … that was unacceptable to me.” He also insisted that Crozier’s removal “is not one about retribution.”