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Capt. Brett Crozier, then-commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt addresses the crew during an all-hands call in the ship’s hangar bay March 3, 2020.  Crozier was relieved of command after his letter that warned sailors could die from the coronavirus outbreak aboard the carrier was leaked to the media.
Capt. Brett Crozier, then-commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt addresses the crew during an all-hands call in the ship’s hangar bay March 3, 2020. Crozier was relieved of command after his letter that warned sailors could die from the coronavirus outbreak aboard the carrier was leaked to the media. (Kaylianna Genier/U.S. Navy)

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WASHINGTON— Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Friday that he is willing to consider reinstating Capt. Brett Crozier as commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, pending the outcome of an investigation.

“No further action will be taken against Capt. Crozier until the investigation is completed. And once that’s completed, we’ll see where that takes us. And so we’ve taken nothing off the table,” Esper said Friday during an interview with CBS This Morning.

Crozier was relieved of his command of the Roosevelt on April 2 by former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly after the captain emailed at least 20 people requesting help for the coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier. Crozier’s letter was leaked to the media.

As of Friday, 447 sailors from the ship have tested positive for the coronavirus. About 3,155 sailors of the 4,800 member crew have been moved ashore in Guam where the ship is in port due to the outbreak, according to the Navy.

Modly resigned Tuesday after his speech to the Roosevelt crew that included calling Crozier stupid surfaced online a day earlier. James McPherson, who had been the acting Army undersecretary, was appointed by Esper to be the acting Navy secretary.

Adm. Robert Burke, vice chief of naval operations, is investigating Crozier’s decision to email the letter as well as the climate across the Pacific Fleet to determine why there was a breakdown in the chain of command.

Esper said he is waiting for the Navy’s recommendations from the investigation.

“My inclination is to always support the chain of command and to take their recommendations seriously. So, we’ll see how that plays out,” he said. “At some point here in the coming days, they will come to me and share with me their findings and recommendations.”

Kenney.Caitlin@stripes.com Twitter: @caitlinmkenney

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