Navy secretary: Trump tweet on SEAL is not a formal order

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said that a review of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher would not be stopped because of a tweet from President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate US sending 20,000 troops to Europe for largest exercises since Cold War Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe MORE.

“I need a formal order to act,” Spencer said while speaking on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, The Associated Press reported. “I don’t interpret [tweets] as a formal order.”

The comments from Spencer came just days after Trump declared on Twitter that the Navy would "NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin."

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"This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business," Trump tweeted as the Navy prepared a legal review into whether Gallagher could keep the pin, which designates him a SEAL. 

The Navy on Wednesday reportedly informed Gallagher, a chief petty officer, that he would face a legal review next month into whether he could stay on the Navy SEALs. A military jury had convicted Gallagher, 40, in July of posing with a corpse in Iraq during a 2017 deployment. While Gallagher had been acquitted of several other charges, including murder, his conviction resulted in a loss of rank and reduction in pay. 

Trump's move to thwart the review of Gallagher has reportedly caused intense opposition among top Navy officials. The New York Times reported that both Spencer and the admiral who leads the SEALs threatened to resign if their plans for a review were halted. 

Spencer has denied threatening to resign. He has indicated that the Navy's review will continue unimpeded, though he told reporters that the process would stop if the commander in chief requested that. 

“Good order and discipline is also obeying the orders of the President of the United States,” he said, the AP noted. "The president the United States is the commander in chief. He’s involved in every aspect of government and he can make decisions and give orders as appropriate."

Gallagher's lawyers have accused the Navy of conducting a disciplinary review in retaliation for Trump's move to restore Gallagher's rank ahead of his conviction.