House Armed Services chairman calls for removal of Navy chief

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Trump pushed to restore full National Guard funding | Watchdog faults Pompeo on civilian risk of Saudi arms sales Lawmakers push Trump to restore full funding for National Guards responding to pandemic Overnight Defense: Embattled Pentagon policy nominee withdraws, gets appointment to deputy policy job | Marines, sailor killed in California training accident identified | Governors call for extension of funding for Guard's coronavirus response MORE (D-Wash.) on Monday called for the removal of acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly after audio leaked in the media of Modly saying an ousted ship captain was "too naive or too stupid" to be in charge of an aircraft carrier.

Smith said he disagrees “strongly” with how Modly has managed the COVID-19 outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and called the firing of Capt. Brett Crozier “at best an overreaction to the extraordinary steps the Captain took to protect his crew.”

“Acting Secretary Modly’s decision to address the sailors on the Roosevelt and personally attack Captain Crozier shows a tone-deaf approach more focused on personal ego than one of the calm, steady leadership we so desperately need in this crisis,” the representative said in a statement.

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“I no longer have confidence in Acting Secretary Modly’s leadership of the Navy and believe he should be removed from his position,” he added. 

Smith is one of several Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaHouse panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate Republican Scott Taylor wins Virginia primary, to face Elaine Luria in rematch National Retail Federation hosts virtual 'store tours' for lawmakers amid coronavirus MORE (D-Va.), a Navy veteran, calling for Modly’s firing following his speech defending his removal of Crozier.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuCalifornia Dems back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup GOP official says Elizabeth Warren 'endorses voter fraud' after joke about Bailey voting for Biden Milley confirms soldiers deployed to DC amid unrest were given bayonets MORE (D-Calif.), Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashKudlow acknowledges executive orders may end up in court: 'We're going to go ahead with our actions anyways' Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Peter Meijer wins GOP primary in Amash's Michigan district MORE (I-Mich.) and Rep. Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden builds big lead in battleground Florida Texas Democrat proposes COVID-19 victims' compensation fund MORE (D-Texas) are also requesting that he step down.

Crozier was relieved of duty last week after sending a letter pleading for help with a coronavirus outbreak aboard his ship. 

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”

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In a Monday morning address to the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s crew, Modly said that if Crozier didn’t think the letter would leak, he was “too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” according to leaked transcripts and audio. Modly said that if Crozier himself leaked the letter, it would be a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  

"It was a betrayal," Modly said during his Monday speech. "And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public's forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, D.C."

The Navy chief later said in a statement Monday that he stood by his comments