U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper renewing an April 7, 2020, request for documents and communications related to the coronavirus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and dismissal of Captain Crozier. To date, the Subcommittee has not received any responsive documents or communications to this request.
“Based on the facts known to date, the Subcommittee has grown increasingly concerned that the decision to remove Captain Crozier from duty may have been in retaliation for exposing shortfalls within the Department of the Navy for its response to the coronavirus pandemic and was unduly and politically influenced by President Trump.”
On April 2, 2020, then-Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly relieved Captain Crozier from command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The day before, Acting Secretary Modly reportedly told a colleague, “Breaking news: Trump wants him fired.” Modly submitted his own resignation on April 7, 2020. To date, 955 sailors onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for coronavirus. On April 13, 2020, Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, Jr. died from the disease. On April 24, 2020, Acting Secretary McPherson and Admiral Gilday reportedly recommended to Secretary of Defense Esper that Captain Crozier be reinstated as commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
On April 29, 2020, Acting Secretary McPherson changed his mind and directed Admiral Gilday to conduct a “follow-on command investigation” to “build on the good work of the initial inquiry to provide a more fulsome understanding of the sequence of events, actions, and decisions of the chain of command surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt.”
“As coronavirus continues to spread, leaders across the military services should feel empowered to raise concerns about the safety of the men and women under their command and expect to be heard by top leaders at the Pentagon,” Chairman Lynch wrote. “It is critical for Congress to have a complete accounting and thorough understanding of the circumstances that may have left Captain Crozier with no other choice but to send his March 30, 2020, letter to Navy leadership, and the chain of events that led to his relief from duty.”
The letter requests that the Department of Defense produce all documents and communications related to the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s March 4-9, 2020, port visit to Da Nang, Vietnam, and subsequent coronavirus outbreak by May 15, 2020.