CRESTON, Iowa — Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said President Donald Trump is trying to “short-circuit military justice” as he intervenes in a case involving the way the U.S. Navy disciplines an officer accused of war crimes.

“The worst part about it is it feels like now our own president is saying that a war fighter and a war criminal are the same, and it’s just not true,” Buttigieg said in an interview with the Des Moines Register Monday. “The message that sends, ultimately, I think is a smear against our veterans and service members who know full well the difference between a tough decision made in the heat of combat and committing a crime.”

Buttigieg was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and served in Afghanistan.

Trump recently intervened to prevent the Navy from expelling Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher from the Navy SEALs. Gallagher was acquitted of stabbing an Islamic State prisoner and firing on Iraqi civilians. But he was convicted of posing with the corpse of a dead captive.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday asked for the resignation of U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, saying he had lost confidence in his handling of the case.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, center, addresses a crowd in Red Oak, Ia., to discuss his plan for long-term and assisted living care on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019.

“It’s one more example of the instability in leadership that really does have an impact on our servicemembers,” Buttigieg told reporters after attending events in Red Oak and Creston. “I just heard on the way over here from a Navy buddy venting frustration about all of the chaos that seems to be happening. And all of it emanates from the White House and a commander in chief who really does not show any evidence of understanding what it means to serve or to support those who do.”





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