Navy launching broader inquiry into coronavirus stricken aircraft carrier, effectively delaying Navy recommendation of reinstating captain—

(CNN)The Navy will announce Wednesday that it is launching a broader inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the outbreak of the coronavirus aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, effectively delaying the Navy recommendation that Captain Brett Crozier should be reinstated, according to two US defense officials and an official briefed on the matter.

The expected announcement comes after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper previously declined to immediately endorse the Navy’s original investigation into the issue which included a recommendation to reinstate the ship’s commanding officer, according to those officials.

Sailors from the Roosevelt began returning to the aircraft carrier Wednesday for the first time since they were moved ashore because of Covid-19, the Navy announced in a statement.

As of Tuesday, the ship had 940 active coronavirus cases, compared with 955 on Monday, reflecting an increase in the number of sailors who have recovered.

The handing of the outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier which led to the firing of Crozier, the ship’s commanding officer, and the resignation of the acting Navy Secretary, has been the subject of an initial Navy investigation.

US officials told CNN that senior Navy officials had recommended Friday that Crozier be reinstated but Esper was not prepared to immediately endorse that recommendation.

Two defense officials told CNN that the Navy had expected Esper to endorse the recommendation last Friday.

A Pentagon spokesman said Friday that Esper “intends to thoroughly review the report and will meet again with Navy leadership to discuss next steps.

“Crozier was fired earlier this month for what the then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said was poor judgment by too widely disseminating a warning among Navy officials about the spread of the virus aboard his vessel, a warning that eventually made its way into the press.

Modly resigned days later over his handling of the incident, actions which included a $240,000 trip to Guam where he slammed Crozier and admonished sailors for giving Crozier a rousing send off in public remarks to the crew.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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