WASHINGTON – The Navy’s investigation into the events surrounding the leak of a letter from the commanding officer of the Theodore Roosevelt is hopelessly undermined by the statements and actions of the Acting Secretary of the Navy, legal experts said.

Acting SECNAV Thomas Modly was well within his rights to fire the commanding officer of the Theodore Roosevelt after a letter revealing the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak was leaked to the media. But Modly’s statements and actions in the firing make any Navy-conducted investigation legally dubious because as the service’s top official, everyone underneath him would be a subordinate, experts told Defense News.

In his statement on April 2 announcing the relief of Capt. Brett Crozier, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said he was tasking Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert Burke to investigate the circumstances surrounding the letter. A separate leak investigation is also ongoing, but is slated to conclude quickly, USNI News reported Sunday.