Donald Trump's Defense Secretary's Resignation Subtly Called Out The President

by Chelsea Stewart
Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

When it comes to White House departures, some go quietly and others go, um, not so quietly. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is the latest person to resign from his position, sending in a letter on Dec. 20 that pulled no punches. Although Jim Mattis' resignation letter is paragraphs long, it's all about President Donald Trump and their (many) policy differences. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for further comment on the matter, but did not hear back by the time of publication.

Mattis, who has been widely seen as a beacon of stability amid the daily chaos of the Trump administration, submitted the letter on Thursday evening, right on the heels of the White House announcing that the United States would be withdrawing its troops from Syria on Dec. 19. The decision was met widespread criticism and concern, was reportedly made against Mattis' recommendation, and was in direct contrast to statements made a mere three months ago by National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Writing to Trump, Mattis, a former Marine Corps general, said that he was resigning "because you have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours" on various subjects. “I believe it is right for me to step down from my position," he said. Per the letter, his resignation will be effective Feb. 28, 2019.

The letter goes on to cite the importance of having "effective leadership to our alliances," particularly NATO. Mattis also stressed the need to be "unambiguous" with countries "whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours," such as Russia and China. In a particularly telling section, he wrote,

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

You can read the full letter here.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The letter appeared to be a rebuke of Trump's inclinations towards shaking up relationships with U.S. allies, including his insistence that the United States' NATO allies aren't pulling their weight (Mattis is a former NATO commander), his withdrawal from major international accords like the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accords, and his insults towards allied leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mattis' resignation adds to a growing list of departures from the White House, which includes Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The letter was released just after Trump tweeted that Mattis would be leaving his post. On Thursday evening, Trump wrote that the secretary will be retiring in February 2019, before raving about Mattis' accomplishments during the two years he's served in his position. The tweets read:

During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!

Although it's barely been a day since the news broke, some potential replacements have already been floated. Those include, per Politico, retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, an outspoken man who has frequently appeared on Fox News (a preferred outlet of the president) and has a strong military background, which is reportedly of importance to Trump. There's also Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), who has "positioned himself as one of Trump's top Senate backers," since President Obama left the White House. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Missouri), and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats are also reported contenders. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for further comment on potential replacements for Mattis, but did not hear back by the time of publication.

Only time will tell who's up next in this ongoing game on musical chairs in the White House.