Esper was not ready to immediately accept the recommendation of Admiral Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations after being informed of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the removal of Crozier, telling senior naval officials that he wanted more time to review their recommendations, two defense officials told CNN. .
Defense officials told CNN that the Navy intended to announce its recommendation at a press conference on Friday afternoon, but it was canceled after Esper did not immediately approve it.
They added that the hope had been that Esper would accept the recommendation.
Earlier on Friday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters that Esper “started this with an open mind” before the meeting with Gilday and that he “was generally inclined to support leaders of the Navy and their decisions ”.
Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Navy declined to comment
The New York Times was the first to report this decision.
Crozier was fired at the start of the month for what the then secretary of the navy, Thomas Modly, called bad judgment by spreading too widely a warning about the spread of the virus on board his ship, a warning that finally made its way into the press.
Modly resigned a few days later for handling the incident, including a $ 240,000 trip to Guam where he criticized Crozier and berated the sailors for giving Crozier an exciting shipment in public remarks to the crew.
While Modly publicly accused Crozier of sending his warning letter to 20 to 30 people, the email to which the letter was attached shows that Crozier sent it to 10 people, including his direct supervisor, according to a copy of the email obtained from the Washington Post.
“I believe that if there is a moment to ask for help, it is now whatever the impact on my career is,” Crozier wrote in his email, the content of which was confirmed to CNN. by an American official directly familiar with the message.
The email was addressed to Rear Admiral Stuart Baker, the commander of the carrier strike group of which the USS Theodore Roosevelt is a component and the immediate commander of Crozier.
The email was also sent to Admiral John Aquilino, commander of the United States Pacific fleet; and Vice-Admiral DeWolfe Miller, another senior Pacific officer responsible for overseeing the naval air force.
The message was also copied to seven naval captains, all of whom were on board the aircraft carrier or as assistants to the admirals addressed in the email.
After his ouster, Crozier was initially reassigned to Pacific Air Naval Command headquarters in San Diego, but he remained in Guam where he completed a mandatory quarantine period.
After his dismissal, Crozier was replaced as commander of the aircraft carrier by the former captain of the ship, Rear Admiral, Carlos Sardiello.
Cases on the ship skyrocketed
The number of coronavirus cases aboard the Roosevelt has skyrocketed in recent days, with 856 sailors tested positive on Friday, and four sailors were hospitalized in Guam where they are being treated for symptoms of coronavirus.
An aircraft carrier sailor died from the virus.
The Navy evacuated more than 4,200 sailors from the ship, which represents more than 85% of the crew of the Roosevelt, and placed them in quarantine or in isolation in Guam, an evacuation which had been urgently requested by Crozier in his letter.
A US Navy official told CNN on Friday that a second US warship had been affected by an epidemic of at least 18 cases of the virus.
The Pentagon later confirmed that there had been an epidemic on the USS Kidd, which has approximately 330 crew members.
Another senior Navy official told CNN on Wednesday that there have been cases of coronavirus on 26 Navy warships, and 14 others have been affected by the virus, but the affected crew members are restored.
While President Donald Trump initially criticized Crozier for writing his warning letter, he then expressed his sympathy for the captain after his ouster, citing his record as a helicopter and jet pilot F / A-18.
“I’m going to get involved and see what’s going on there because I don’t want to destroy someone for having a bad day,” said Trump.
Asked last week about the investigation last week, Esper did not rule out Crozier’s reinstatement, and the Navy has repeatedly said that nothing is at stake and that no final decision has been made on the matter. regard to the investigation.
The Navy’s top admiral told reporters earlier this month that he was “taking no options on the table” as he reviewed the investigation and was under no pressure from the part of the Pentagon or administration officials to achieve a particular result.
“I am not taking any options on the table as I review this investigation, I think it is my responsibility to take it diligently to ensure that it is completely fair and impartial, as I can do it, “Gilday told a small group. journalists during a conference call.
Gilday also said that he had not spoken to Crozier and that he was under no pressure during the investigation.
“I am under no pressure from anyone in terms of pace or influence, no one told me about this investigation – you are the first people I talk to about the investigation outside my office”, said Gilday.
CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.