The officer, Captain Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, wrote a letter to military leaders earlier this week asking for help with a wartime coronavirus outbreak. The letter, dated March 30, was sent via unsecured email and also outside the chain of command. He leaked to the media.
“I thought it was terrible what he did, write a letter. It is not a literature course. He’s the captain of a huge nuclear powered ship, “Trump said at a media briefing on Saturday evening. “The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was everywhere. It is not appropriate. I don’t think it’s appropriate. “
In the four-page letter, first published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Crozier described a worsening coronavirus epidemic on board the warship, a temporary home for more than 4,000 crew members. More than 100 people on board the ship were infected at the time.
“We are not at war. Sailors don’t have to die. If we do not act now, we cannot properly take care of our most reliable asset – our sailors, “Crozier wrote in the letter. “The spread of the disease continues and is accelerating. “
The epidemic came after a stopover in Da Nang, Vietnam, earlier in March. Fifteen days after leaving Vietnam, three sailors from the USS Roosevelt tested positive for the virus. These infections were the first reports of coronaviruses on a military ship at sea.
When the ship arrived in Vietnam, the number of coronavirus cases in the country was less than 100, said Thomas Modly, the acting secretary of the navy, last month.
“I guess the captain stopped in Vietnam and people went down to Vietnam,” said Trump on Saturday. “Maybe you’re not doing this in the middle of a pandemic or something like that. History would say that you don’t necessarily stop and don’t let your sailors get off. “
Crozier has since been relieved of his duties, Modly told reporters Thursday at the Pentagon. He added Friday that Crozier will be reassigned during an investigation to determine if he should face disciplinary measures. Trump added on Saturday that he was not involved in the decision to relieve Crozier.
“The captain’s actions made his sailors, their families and many in the public believe that his letter was the only reason that help from our larger Navy family was coming, which didn’t ‘was hardly the case,’ he said. “It sounded the alarm unnecessarily. “
The reaction to Crozier’s dismissal was intense. In videos posted online, sailors from Theodore Roosevelt cheered on their former commander and greeted him as a hero.
– Reuters and Amanda Macias of CNBC contributed to this report