Esper is likely to support the Navy’s decision. Hoffman said earlier Friday that while “he is going into this with an open mind,” Esper is “generally inclined” to support the chain of command.
But Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wants “a different approach,” according to the senior defense official.
The news of the recommendation was first reported by The New York Times.
Modly fired Crozier after the captain emailed several Navy leaders asking for help for his roughly 5,000 sailors. The message was later leaked to the media. Modly abruptly fired Crozier on April 2 before the service could complete an investigation into the incident, saying the captain exercised “poor judgment” and that he believed President Donald Trump would want him relieved.
Crozier’s reinstatement will likely be viewed favorably by Navy veterans and lawmakers, many of whom criticized Modly’s decision to relieve the captain in the middle of a crisis for what was moved as a minor infraction. The move had already been called into question: Modly told reporters that Crozier had CC’d “20 to 30” people on the email, but The Washington Post reported that the captain only copied a handful of other Navy officials.
The ship’s crew has also been eager to see Crozier reinstated. Videos posted of his last moments on the ship showed sailors cheering, chanting his name and swarming to say goodbye.
Lawmakers on Friday urged Esper to accept the Navy’s recommendation and reinstate Crozier.
“While Captain Crozier’s actions at the outset of the health crisis aboard the TR were drastic and imperfect, it is clear he only took such steps to protect his crew,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, calling Modly’s decision to fire Crozier “wrong.” “Not only did Captain Crozier have the full support of his crew, he also attempted to work within his chain of command. During this time of crisis, Captain Crozier is exactly what our Sailors need: a leader who inspires confidence.
Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) also called on Esper to heed the Navy’s advice.
“The Navy made the right decision in recommending Brett Crozier be reinstated as Captain of the U.S.S. Roosevelt. Captain Crozier is a man of incredible integrity and is respected by the sailors aboard the U.S.S. Roosevelt,” Garamendi said.
Modly himself stepped down in early April after an uproar over a profanity-laced address he gave to the Roosevelt’s crew, in which he called Crozier “naive” and “stupid” for sending the message.
Although Trump suggested that he might intervene in the investigation, the White House did not get involved, according to the defense official. He did, however, fault Crozier for writing the letter.
“The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place,” Trump said. “That’s not appropriate.”
“I thought it was terrible, what he did, to write a letter. I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear powered. And he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter,” Trump said.
In the letter, Crozier urged “decisive action” to remove the “majority of personnel” from the carrier.
“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.”
Trump later said “I don’t want to destroy somebody for having a bad day.”
The Roosevelt’s crew has been stuck on Guam since March 27 as it deals with the outbreak. The Navy has now tested 100 percent of the crew, with 856 positive results. Four sailors are in U.S. Naval Hospital Guam being treated for Covid-19 symptoms. One died this month. Crozier, who was also infected, is in isolation in Guam.
A second ship at sea, the destroyer USS Kidd, has now been sidelined by the virus. The ship is preparing to pull into port after 18 sailors tested positive for Covid-19, the Pentagon confirmed Friday.