Esper was not prepared to immediately accept the recommendation from Admiral Michael Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations after being briefed on the investigation into the circumstances around Crozier’s removal, telling top Navy officials he wanted more time to review their recommendations, a defense official told CNN.
Earlier on Friday Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters Esper was “going into this with an open mind” ahead of the meeting with Gilday and that “he is generally inclined to support Navy leadership and their decisions.”
“I believe if there is ever a time to ask for help it is now regardless of the impact on my career,” Crozier wrote in his email, the contents of which a US official directly familiar with the message confirmed to CNN.
The email was addressed to Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, the commander of the carrier strike group of which the USS Theodore Roosevelt is a component and Crozier’s immediate commanding officer.
The email was also addressed to Adm. John Aquilino, the commander of US Pacific Fleet; and Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, another senior officer in the Pacific responsible for overseeing Naval Air Forces.
The message was also copied to seven Navy captains, all of whom were either serving aboard the aircraft carrier or working as aides to the admirals addressed in the email.
Following his ouster Crozier was initially reassigned to the headquarters of the Naval Air Forces Pacific command in San Diego but has remained in Guam where he is completing a mandatory quarantine period.
After he was fired Crozier was replaced as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier by the ship’s former captain, Rear Admiral select Carlos Sardiello.
Cases on ship have skyrocketed
The number of coronavirus cases aboard the Roosevelt have skyrocketed in recent days, with 856 sailors testing positive as of Friday, and four sailors have been hospitalized in Guam where they are being treated for coronavirus symptoms.
One sailor from the aircraft carrier has died due to contracting the virus.
The Navy has evacuated more than 4,200 sailors from the ship, representing more than 85% of the Roosevelt’s crew, and moved them into quarantine or isolation on Guam, an evacuation that was urgently called for by Crozier in his letter.
While President Donald Trump initially criticized Crozier for writing his letter of warning, he later expressed sympathy for the captain following his ouster, citing his accomplished record as a helicopter and F/A-18 jet pilot.
“I’m going to get involved and see what is going on there because I don’t want to destroy somebody for having a bad day,” Trump said.
The Navy’s top admiral told reporters earlier this month that he is “taking no options off the table” as he reviewed the investigation and that he was under no pressure from Pentagon or administration officials to drive toward a particular outcome.
“I am taking no options off the table as I review that investigation I think that that’s my responsibility to approach it in a way with due diligence to make sure it’s completely fair and unbiased as I can possibly make it,” Gilday told a small group of reporters on a conference call.
Gilday also said that he has not spoken to Crozier and that he is under no pressure in terms of the investigation.
“I’m under no pressure from anybody in terms of my pace or in terms of any kind of influence, nobody has talked to me about that investigation — you’re the first people that I’m talking to about the investigation outside of my office,” Gilday said.