Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is resigning

Hugh Fox
December 21, 2018

Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, a close friend of Mattis' who had recommended him to Trump for the job of defense secretary, told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly on All Things Considered he believed those moves may have been the impetus for Mattis' decision to depart the administration in February of next year.

Many observers and critics of the president had long believed that Mattis was one of the key figures in the administration protecting the country from Trump's worst ideas and plans.

Sure, the President's son-in-law doesn't have any qualifications to lead the Department of Defense, but he wasn't overly qualified for any of the other titles he's taken on, including brokering peace in the Middle East.

"The departure of the last "adult in the room" at a time when Trump is increasingly isolated, irrational and erratic will rightly frighten lawmakers and allies", Rubin added.

The Middle East has already been jolted by a series of policy about-faces under Trump, from the undoing of his predecessor's deal with Iran, to his decision to move the USA embassy in Israel to Jerusalem to the decision to withdraw US forces from Syria.

While there is much Mattis should not be proud of - sending troops to the border with Mexico as part of an election campaign show, not speaking out or resigning when Trump stood up for white supremacists at Charlottesville, attacked the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the press, or did any number of things that undermine American democracy and security - Mattis can be proud of taking a stand now.

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'Secretary Mattis should testify before Congress and answer questions about the alarming contents of his resignation letter, ' Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, wrote on Twitter. Many of these Marines have now left the Trump White House amid numerous reports of disagreements or criticisms of Trump.

US President Donald Trump arrives for a "Make America Great Again" campaign rally at McKenzie Arena, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on November 4, 2018.

But despite his initial influence, Mattis has been losing battles with the president for months.

Joe Scarborough and the rest of the Morning Joe reacted to news of the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis with the critical hyperbole that its viewers tune in to see. The defense secretary was also miffed that the president, against his advice, ordered the creation of a separate Space Force.

Trump rebuked Graham in response on Twitter.

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, co-chairman of the European Council on Foreign Relations, described the reaction to news of Mattis' imminent departure as "a morning of alarm in Europe".

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Democrats decried the latest Trump administration departure as a "crisis", but Republicans also voiced concern.

Mattis hailed the coalition to defeat the Islamic State as well as Nato, the almost 70-year-old alliance between North America and Europe whose cost-effectiveness has been questioned by the businessman turned president. The Democrats' opposition to Trump is driven by USA imperialism's global interests and has nothing to do with the conditions confronting the working class, the overwhelming majority of the U.S. population.

Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokesperson, said Mattis briefed his senior staff after his return from the White House around 5 p.m. on Thursday night.

Mattis's last day at the Pentagon will be February 28. Trump threw that into doubt by not only threatening to levy auto tariffs against Japan, but questioning its contribution to security. One official said it was a contributing factor to his resignation.

"He and the president get along, and Shanahan has no ideological baggage", said another source with knowledge of the White House shortlist.

Another top contender is David McCormick, a West Point graduate, combat veteran, and co-CEO of the global macro investment firm Bridgewater Associates, the two sources told FP. Trump has burned through two chiefs of staff, two national security advisers, a secretary of state and an attorney general in less than two years. Trump fired back at Allen through a tweet and said his fight against ISIS "failed badly".

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