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Navy leaders recommend reinstating captain fired after raising coronavirus concerns

Crozier had pleaded for help from Navy officials in a letter that was leaked to the news media.

Capt. Brett Crozier, who was relieved of his command after he raised concerns about a coronavirus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, should be reinstated, the Navy's top officials recommended Friday.

According to a U.S. defense official, a source familiar with the matter and a former defense official, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Acting Secretary of the Navy Jim McPherson both laid out a series of options to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Friday, including the recommendation that Capt. Brett Crozier be reinstated as commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Esper asked for more time to think about it.

"This afternoon, Secretary Esper received a verbal update from the acting Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations on the Navy’s preliminary inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt," Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said in a statement. "After the Secretary receives a written copy of the completed inquiry, he intends to thoroughly review the report and will meet again with Navy leadership to discuss next steps.

"He remains focused on and committed to restoring the full health of the crew and getting the ship at sea again soon," Hoffman said.

Esper asked for more time to think about it, the sources said. Esper indicated last week it was possible Crozier could be reinstated. He said an investigation was completed in the second week of April, and the Navy was reviewing its findings.

"It will come to me at some point in time. As I'm in the chain of command, I can't comment on that further, but I've got to keep an open mind with regard to everything," Esper said last week.

"We've got to take this one step at a time, let the investigation within the Navy conclude itself ... and we'll make very reasoned opinions and judgments as this progresses," he also said.

Crozier pleaded for more resources and help offloading the crew of the ship in a letter that was leaked to the news media.

The acting Navy secretary at the time, Thomas Modly, had said Crozier "demonstrated extremely poor judgment" in the middle of a crisis.

Modly said Crozier was removed from his post because he sent his letter over "non-secure unclassified email" to a "broad array of people" rather than up the chain of command.

Modly resigned after he ridiculed and then apologized to Crozier.

His stinging remarks about Crozier, broadcast over the loudspeakers on the Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier with a crew of nearly 5,000, drew criticism from lawmakers, and President Donald Trump said he might get involved.