'Nothing Off the Table': Pentagon Won't Rule Out Reinstating Fired Navy Captain

Capt. Brett Crozier,  commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, gives remarks during an all-hands.
Capt. Brett Crozier, then commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), gives remarks during an all-hands call on the ship’s flight deck Dec. 15, 2019. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alexander Williams)

The top Navy officer and defense secretary have the same message when it comes to Capt. Brett Crozier being reassigned to the job from which he was removed last week.

"We've taken nothing off the table."

That's what Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS News on Friday morning. On Thursday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday also said he's open to reinstating Crozier as the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.

"I am taking no options off the table," Gilday told The Associated Press. The CNO hasn't spoken to Crozier, the outlet reported, and isn't facing pressure from anyone about the investigation.

Related: Investigation into Navy Carrier CO's Firing Now Complete, Top Admiral Says

Gilday "just wants to make sure his actions are fair," according to the AP.

The Navy has completed its investigation into Crozier, though the results have not been made public. Crozier was relieved of command April 2. That was after he sent a plea for help with a growing health crisis on his ship to several people outside his chain of command.

Since Crozier's warning, which came in the form of a four-page letter that was later published by the San Francisco Chronicle, nearly 10% of the Roosevelt's crew has tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Crozier is one of them. Another member was moved into an intensive care unit Thursday after being found unresponsive in Guam, where thousands of sailors have been moved off the ship to stem the spread of the virus among the crew.

The decision to remove Crozier from his position has been met with controversy. When Crozier left the ship, videos emerged of his crew applauding him, chanting the captain's name as he left.

Former Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who made the call, has since stepped down after he disparaged the ousted captain in a speech he gave to the crew days later. Modly flew to Guam to make the speech, which media outlets reported cost taxpayers more than $240,000. He resigned Tuesday following mounting pressure from lawmakers and others over his handling of the situation.

Esper told CBS his guidance to Gilday and the new acting Navy secretary, James McPherson, was to ensure no further action is taken against Crozier until after the service's investigation into his actions is complete.

"We'll see where that takes us," he said.

"What I look to do is hear from the chain of command," Esper added. "My inclination is always to support the chain of command and to take their recommendations seriously."

The defense secretary said he expects to hear the Navy's findings and recommendations "in the coming days."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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