"You know what I'm talking about", Trump said.
President Trump campaigned Tuesday night on the popularity of his grants of clemency for three US soldiers accused of war crimes, telling a Florida "homecoming" rally that he fought Washington's bureaucracy and won.
Trump defended getting involved in Gallagher's case.
Esper said Spencer had gone behind his back last week to propose a secret deal with the White House in which Spencer would fix the outcome of the Gallagher review.
"Secretary Spencer broke these rules and, thus, lost my trust and confidence", Esper said. Earlier this month, Trump restored Gallagher's rank to E-7 (Chief Petty Officer) so that he could retire with full benefits.
The president has tweeted in support of Gallagher, praising the sailor's service and saying the case was "handled very badly from the beginning".
In a statement carried by the DOD on Sunday, Esper cited the "lack of candor over [Spencer's] conversations with the White House" as the reason behind his dismissal.
He and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley had been "completely caught off guard by this information, and realized that it had undermined everything we had been discussing with the president", Esper said.
"He took it in stride and said he would have a letter to me in 30 minutes, and he did", Esper said.
But Spencer said he was quickly told his proposal was a no go.
"The rule of law is what sets us apart from our adversaries". "I can not in good conscience obey an order that I believes violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States".
Already, the president's intervention in the Gallagher case and the firing of the Navy secretary have some Democratic lawmakers calling for an investigation.
PHOTO: Richard Spencer testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2017. "Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect I no longer share the same understanding with the commander in chief who appointed me", Spencer added. "I will always stick up for our great American fighters". Trump has tapped Kenneth Braithwaite, his ambassador to Norway, to replace Spencer.