Trump says defense chief Mattis 'could be' leaving post

Frederick Owens
October 16, 2018

President Trump has brought his long-simmering tension with Defense Secretary James Mattis to the fore in a new interview suggesting what he once denied: Mattis may be heading for the exit.

Lesley Stahl: I know, but why do you love that guy? "We're going to do whatever we can do to get it slowed down".

Asked if that meant he was not a registered member of either major political party, he replied, "I've never registered for any political party". "People leave. That's Washington".

"Of course, I don't think about leaving", Mattis told Pentagon reporters last month.

The president also decried claims of chaos in his administration as "fake news". I have people now on standby that will be phenomenal.

The Trump administration has experienced an unprecedented turnover rate as compared to past administrations. When he then offered, "They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than ..."

"We [President Trump and Mattis] have never talked about me leaving. But I don't know that it's man-made", said Trump. I have some people that I'm not thrilled with.

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Rumors that Mattis's days as defense chief are numbered have circulated since a book by journalist Bob Woodward about Trump's chaotic White House said the general had questioned Trump's judgment, likening his understanding to that of a 10- or 11-year-old child. Instead, facts like these ones seemed to be assumed on the part of the viewership at home, and the silences were filled by Trump, who explained away why orthodoxies were wrong while Stahl struggled to break into his monologues. And we will know more when he gets back.

The president said Mr. Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, hasn't indicated that he wants to leave his post yet.

Asked about Trump's remarks, a Pentagon spokesman says Mattis is "laser-focused on doing his job - ensuring the US military remains the most lethal force on the planet". "I don't think it's a hoax", he told Stahl. When Mattis was nominated, Trump took to referring to him by a nickname he detests: "Mad Dog". He told reporters the violent history between the two countries is a thing of the past.

Trump, perhaps opening the door to Mattis' exit, told Stahl that the defense secretary "could" be considering a departure from the Cabinet.

In the interview, he also said that he likes Mattis and that eventually all of his appointees move on.

Mattis continued: "But when you think 83 percent of the U.S. Congress voting the same way on an issue put forward by the Republican president, you can see that my portfolio is bipartisan by its very basis, and that is the protection of the United States".

Last month, Mattis appeared to be caught off-guard by statements from National Security Advisor John Bolton that the estimated 2,000 US troops in Syria would not be withdrawn until Iranian forces and Iranian-allied militias also left the country.

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