Mattis to Resign
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned Thursday after clashing with President Donald Trump over the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and after two years of deep disagreements over America’s role in the world.
Mattis, perhaps the most respected foreign policy official in Trump’s administration, will leave by the end of February after two tumultuous years struggling to soften and moderate the president’s hardline and sometimes sharply changing policies. He told Trump in a letter that he was leaving because “you have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”
Mattis went to the White House with his resignation letter in hand to meet with the president and spoke to Trump for about 45 minutes, according to a senior U.S. official familiar with the incident but speaking on conditions of anonymity to discuss a private meeting. There was no confrontation between the two men, the official said, and there was no one issue that caused the resignation. However, the official said, Syria likely was the last straw for Mattis.
“This is scary,” tweeted Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Secretary Mattis has been an island of stability amidst the chaos of the Trump administration.”
News of Mattis’ resignation broke as Trump faced an imminent government shutdown, the Dow had plunged more than 1,200 points since Monday and the President was being blasted for foreign policy decisions. On Wednesday, Trump had announced that the US will pull its troops from Syria because “we have defeated ISIS,” and earlier Thursday, CNN’s Jake Tapper reported that officials throughout the administration were bracing themselves for Trump to make an announcement about the US presence in Afghanistan.
“The wheels may be coming off,” said a conservative House Republican who supports Trump, commenting on the news about Mattis’ departure at the end of February. Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that “the kind of leadership that causes a dedicated patriot like Jim Mattis to leave should give pause to every American.”
Former CIA Director Leon Panetta simply sounded furious. “The last damn thing we need is more chaos and crisis,” Panetta told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “This is a President who operates somehow by his gut instinct and how he reads the politics of the moment,” Panetta said.
“He enjoys chaos” because he believes it brings him more attention, “but a steady diet of chaos creates hell for the American people,” Panetta continued. “We need a president who is going to make the right decisions and provide stability for this country.”