Acting US Navy secretary resigns after ridiculing commander of coronavirus-hit USS Theodore Roosevelt

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly’s resignation highlighted the US military’s struggle to meet increasingly competing priorities. (Reuters file photo)
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Updated 08 April 2020

Acting US Navy secretary resigns after ridiculing commander of coronavirus-hit USS Theodore Roosevelt

  • Thomas Modly’s resignation highlighted the US military’s struggle to meet increasingly competing priorities
  • As of Tuesday, 230 of about 5,000 personnel on the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for the coronavirus

WASHINGTON: Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned on Tuesday after he faced mounting backlash for firing and ridiculing the commander of a US aircraft carrier who pleaded for help stemming a coronavirus outbreak onboard.
Modly’s resignation highlighted the US military’s struggle to meet increasingly competing priorities: maintaining readiness for conflict and safeguarding servicemembers as the virus spreads globally.
The episode deepened upheaval in Navy leadership. The Navy’s last secretary was fired in November over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL convicted of battlefield misconduct. The Navy SEAL had won the support of President Donald Trump.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Modly’s resignation on Twitter, saying the Navy’s top civilian had “resigned of his own accord.” Trump concurred, saying it was a selfless act and adding he had nothing to do with it.

“The whole thing was … very unfortunate. The captain should not have written a letter. He didn’t have to be Ernest Hemingway. He made a mistake, but he had a bad day,” Trump said at the White House.
Modly’s resignation occurred only after mounting pressure from Congress and a backlash from the crew, and followed Trump’s own suggestion on Monday that he might get involved in the crisis — saying the Navy captain whom Modly fired was also a good man.
“I briefed President Trump after my conversation with Secretary Modly,” Esper said, as he named an Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson to replace Modly as acting Navy secretary.
Captain Brett Crozier, whom Modly relieved of command last week, favored more dramatic steps to safeguard his sailors aboard the Theodore Roosevelt in a four-page letter that leaked to the public last week.
When Modly fired him over the leak, his crew hailed Crozier as a hero and gave him a rousing sendoff captured on video, apparently upsetting Modly and leading the Navy’s top civilian to fly to Guam to castigate the captain in a speech to the crew on Monday.
Modly questioned Crozier’s character, saying at one point he was either “stupid” or “naive.” After audio of his speech leaked, including expletives, Modly initially stood by his remarks. But later, at Esper’s request, he issued an apology.
But the apology was not enough to satisfy critics, who were calling for his resignation.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi added her voice to calls for Modly’s removal.
“Sadly, Acting Secretary Modly’s actions and words demonstrate his failure to prioritize the force protection of our troops,” Pelosi said in a statement.
A fellow Democrat, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, had already called for Modly’s removal.
Modly’s apology also did little to mollify the crew on the carrier.
“He said what he said and nobody is going to forget it,” a sailor on the carrier told Reuters.
As of Tuesday, 230 of about 5,000 personnel on the Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for the coronavirus.


McCann family seeks closure as Germany presumes Madeleine is dead

Updated 1 min 49 sec ago

McCann family seeks closure as Germany presumes Madeleine is dead

  • Madeleine McCann was three at the time of her disappearance in May 2007

LONDON: The family of missing British girl Madeleine McCann is seeking answers in the case after a key suspect was identified in Germany and as authorities there said Thursday they believe she is dead.
McCann was 3 at the time of her disappearance in May 2007 while she was on vacation with her family in Portugal.
UK and German authorities haven’t named the suspect but said he is 43 and currently in prison in Germany for another crime, and that he was in and around the Praia da Luz resort area on the Algarve coast at the time McCann disappeared. Though numerous suspects have come to light in the case previously, McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said that it seems as if there is something different this time.
“In more than 13 years of working with the family I can’t recall the police being so specific about an individual,” Mitchell told Sky News. “He is not being named and the police are quite adamant they are not going to do that, certainly not yet, but they want very specific details around his movement in 2007, even down to phone calls he received the night before Madeleine went missing and the fact he changed the registration of his car the day after.”
Hans Christian Wolters, a prosecutor in Braunschweig, Germany, told reporters investigators are operating on the assumption that McCann is dead.
“In connection with the disappearance of the then 3-year-old British girl Madeleine Beth McCann on May 3, 2007 from an apartment complex in Praia da Luz in Portugal, Braunschweig prosecutors are investigating a 43-year-old German citizen on suspicion of murder,” he told reporters.
“You can infer from that we assume the girl is dead.”
The long-running case of McCann, who vanished shortly before her fourth birthday, has mesmerized Britain for years. Her parents say Madeleine disappeared after they had left her and her twin siblings asleep in their holiday complex while they had dinner with friends at a nearby restaurant.
More than 600 people had been identified as being potentially significant, but officers were tipped off about the German suspect following a 2017 appeal, 10 years after the girl went missing.
Police said the suspect, described as white with short, blond hair and a slim build, was linked to a camper van seen in the Algarve in 2007 and was believed to be in the resort area in the days before and after May 3 that year.
Christian Hoppe of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office told German public broadcaster ZDF that the suspect, a German citizen, is currently imprisoned in Germany for a sexual crime. He spent numerous years in Portugal and has two previous convictions for “sexual contact with girls.”
Hoppe said German police aren’t ruling out a sexual motive. They said whoever abducted the girl may have broken into the holiday apartment and then spontaneously committed the kidnapping.
The suspect is being investigated on suspicion of murder by prosecutors in the German city of Braunschweig, where he was last registered before moving abroad.
Wolters wouldn’t give any other details of the suspect’s identity so as not to jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
The description, however, fits that of a 43-year-old man who was convicted in December of the 2005 rape of an American woman, who was 72 at the time, in her apartment in Portugal, the local Braunschweiger Zeitung newspaper reported.
Hoppe said the suspect in the McCann case lived between Lagos and Praia da Luz, was regularly in the Algarve region from between 1995 to 2007. The newspaper, which covered the recent rape trial, said that description and other details match the suspect in that case, who was linked to the 2005 attack recently by DNA.
The suspect denied the charges during the trial and the verdict is currently being appealed. The court didn’t answer an email seeking comment or answer its phones.
Police from Britain, Germany and Portugal launched a new joint appeal for information in the case Wednesday. They asked for anyone to come forward if they had seen two vehicles linked to the suspect — a Volkswagen camper van and a Jaguar. They also sought information on two Portuguese phone numbers, including one believed to have been used by the suspect on the day of Madeleine’s disappearance.
The family, as ever, as searching for answers.
“They do remain hopeful that she could still be found alive,” Mitchell said. “They’ve never given up on that hope, nor will they, until they are presented with any incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. But they say that despite all that, whatever the outcome of this particular line of enquiry might be, they need to know as they need to find peace.”