Trump’s ex-Navy secretary endorses Bloomberg for president

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The former Navy secretary who was fired after criticizing President Donald Trump endorsed Democrat Michael Bloomberg for president on Friday, saying the U.S. needs a leader with integrity who would have “a steady hand on the wheel.”

Former Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer announced the endorsement during a campaign event at a maritime center and museum in Norfolk, Virginia. Spencer said he is a “lifelong Republican” who says he’s “tremendously concerned” that democracies around the world, and international alliances, are under threat.

“I don’t care if you’re a Republican, you’re a Democrat or independent, if we are to sustain this experiment we call democracy, America needs the best leader available,” Spencer said. “I do believe Mike can get it done.”

Spencer was pushed out of his position after he clashed with Trump and military leaders over the fate of Navy Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was accused of war crimes in Iraq.

Bloomberg, a billionaire former mayor of New York City who is skipping campaigning for the Democratic nomination in the four early states, has been focusing on states like Virginia that vote in the March 3 “Super Tuesday” contests, when the largest number of delegates are up for grabs.

Speaking in Norfolk, home to one of the largest naval stations, he pledged to support the military, veterans and their families, and to work to rebuild international alliances. Bloomberg also said he is a leader who has built teams and who listens to staff and doesn’t retaliate against people who disagree with him — a not-so-veiled reference to Trump and his decision to fire Spencer.

“When a president places more faith in what he is told by Vladimir Putin than by his own director of national intelligence that’s a prescription for disaster,” he said. “Surrounding yourself with a bunch of yes people is the surest way I know to fail.”

Bloomberg is running as a moderate who can bring together Democrats, independents and disaffected Republicans to defeat Trump. He entered the race among concerns from establishment Democrats about whether former Vice President Joe Biden, who was seen as the leading moderate in the race, would be able to clinch the nomination over more liberal opponents like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and he has spent more than $300 million of his own fortune to air television ads.