Admiral set to become top Navy officer retiring after judgment questioned

Admiral set to become top Navy officer retiring after judgment questioned
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The four-star admiral nominated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE to become the top officer in the U.S. Navy will instead retire, a sudden move following the disclosure of a professional relationship that made Navy Secretary Richard Spencer "call his judgment into question."

The Navy announced Sunday that Adm. William Moran has decided to decline his appointment, The Associated Press reported.  

He was confirmed by the Senate in May to succeed current Adm. John Richardson as chief of naval operations and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

“As painful as it is to submit my request to retire, I will not be an impediment whatsoever to the important service that you and your families continue to render the nation every day,” Moran wrote in a statement.

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The reversal reportedly comes after senior Navy officials learned of Spencer’s former association with a naval officer accused of inappropriate conduct.

“Adm. Bill Moran recently brought to my attention that over the past two years he maintained a professional relationship with an individual who was held accountable and counseled for failing to meet the values and standards of the Naval profession,” Spencer said in a written statement obtained by AP. “While I admire his faithful service and commitment to the Navy, this decision on his part to maintain that relationship has caused me to call his judgment into question. Therefore, today I accepted Adm. Moran’s request to retire.”

The news service reported that officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, suggested that Moran continued his communication with former naval officer Chris Servello.

Servello was reportedly removed from his position as a public affairs adviser in 2017 and given a nonpunitive letter following allegations of inappropriate actions by Servello at a 2016 Navy Christmas party.

Servello was accused of making unwanted sexual advances and drinking with junior officers while dressed as Santa, the AP reported, adding that he was never charged and he retired from the Navy last May at the rank of commander.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the U.S. Defense Department’s inspector general has launched an investigation into Moran’s communication with Servello.

“I’m aware of Admiral Moran’s decision, and it’s hard not to feel disappointment and disbelief,” Servello said in a statement, according to the Journal. “This is terrible news for the Navy. Beyond that I have nothing else to add.”

Moran pointed to the open investigation into “the nature of some of my personal email correspondence over the past couple of years” while explaining his retirement.

“To be clear,” Moran added, “my decision to maintain this relationship was in no way an endorsement or tacit approval of” the kind of misconduct that Servello was disciplined for. “I understand how toxic it can be to any team when inappropriate behavior goes unrecognized and unchecked. Every Sailor is entitled to serve in an environment free of harassment or intimidation.”

Richardson, who was set to retire in September, will extend his tenure until another candidate can be nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate, the AP reported.