Disputes between US President Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have increased. Many media sources in the US are reporting the probable dismissal of Trump’s Secretary of Defense in the coming days. Meanwhile, after the presence of people such as John Bolton and Mike Pumpeo at the White House, Mattises’ power in the US Department of Defense actually dropped.
As CNBC reported, The relationship between President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis may have “soured” to the point of no return, The New York Times reported on Saturday — but the White House denied the former general is on the outs with his boss. In its report, The Times cited more than a dozen administration and congressional officials saying that national security aides such as Mattis have effectively been iced out by Trump ahead of the 2018 congressional midterm elections. Trump is reportedly souring on Mattis based on policy differences on a number of fronts, and appears resentful of unflattering comparisons between the two men, the publication reported.
In addition, the president is reportedly looking to replace the four star general with someone “who would be more vocally supportive than Mr. Mattis, who is vehemently protective of the American military against perceptions it could be used for political purposes,” the Times reported.Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House’s top spokeswoman, told CNBC in an email that the report was “completely untrue.”
The reported fray in the relationship comes after the president and Mattis seemed to have an unbreakable bond, and shared burger dinners at the White House early in the general’s tenure.The president, who publicly referred to his top security adviser as “Mad Dog,” could be influenced by the latest political book to rock Washington. “Fear,” the latest book by author and famed political journalist Bob Woodward, attributed several quotes to Mattis that were highly critical of Trump. In one instance, Woodward reports that Mattis told a group of confidants “Secretaries of defense don’t always get to choose the president they work for,” and that Trump acted like he had an understanding of ‘a fifth or sixth grader.” Mattis, however, has rebuked Woodward’s book calling it “fiction” and a “product of someone’s rich imagination.”
Also Los Angeles Times reported, When Defense Secretary James N. Mattis declared last month that he had “no plans” to cancel future joint military exercises with South Korean forces, it brought him a very public rebuke from President Trump. “There is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint US-South Korea war games,” Trump fired back the next day in a tweet he labeled “Statement from the White House.” He underscored that only “the President” could restart the exercises he had abruptly suspended after his June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The dispute highlighted Mattis’ precarious standing with Trump. The president once reveled in the 68-year-old retired Marine general’s reputation as a battle-hardened warrior — calling him “Mad Dog,” to Mattis’ distress — but recently appears to have wearied of him.Current and former Pentagon officials who have observed the relationship firsthand cite growing signs of discord that raise questions about how much longer Mattis, long seen as a steadying force in the Trump Cabinet, will remain at the Pentagon.
More than specific policy disagreements, the growing estrangement stems from Trump’s belief that Mattis is secretly dismissive of him and constantly trying to outmaneuver him, officials say.“He thinks Mattis isn’t loyal in the way Trump wants all his people to be loyal — publicly, unquestioningly and completely,” said a national security official who has observed the relationship and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive topic.
On the other side, associates say Mattis’ frustration at Trump’s often impetuous style and penchant for blindsiding the Pentagon with major policy announcements could eventually prompt him to quit. Once-frequent phone calls between the two after Trump took office last year have dwindled to occasional conversations. Policy clashes that once unfolded in private are increasingly surfacing publicly, often because Trump seems determined to send a message to Mattis that he is in charge.They have been at odds over Trump’s demand to bar transgender recruits from the military, his call to create a new armed service called the “space force,” his verbal attacks on NATO allies, his suggestions that he may cut US troop levels in Europe and Asia, and the timetable for removing US troops from Syria.
National security advisor John Bolton’s hard-line approach to Iran and other issues meshes better with Trump’s disruptive instincts than Mattis’ often more strategic approach, according to the officials.Asked Wednesday at the Pentagon to describe his relationship with Trump, Mattis replied, “No problem. It’s been the same all along.”
Pressed on whether he intended to serve out the rest of Trump’s first term, Mattis replied, “This is not a day I’m going to go further into politics,” and shortly thereafter ended the questions.“Secretary Mattis is laser-focused on doing his job — ensuring the US military remains the most lethal force on the planet,” Pentagon Press Secretary Dana said Friday. “There is no daylight between the secretary and president when it comes to supporting our service members and their mission.” Journalist Bob Woodward wrote in a book released Tuesday that Mattis had told associates that Trump had “a fifth- or sixth-grader” understanding of the challenge on the Korean peninsula, and that Mattis once disregarded a presidential directive to assassinate Syrian President Bashar Assad. Mattis described the account as “fiction.” In a rare public defense of Trump, he said in a statement that the “contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence.” Trump responded that he was “very happy” with Mattis, and called his condemnation of the book “the nicest quote about me I think I’ve ever had.” But in private, Trump has started referring to Mattis as “Moderate Dog,” a mocking reference to the nickname that Mattis disdains and to his attempts to rein in White House ideas, according to Politico.Mattis was never a seamless fit with Trump.
Ultimately, the resignation of the United States Secretary of Defense or his removal from power will create a new crisis at the White House. Right now, many Republicans are demanding the backing of James Mattis in the US Department of Defense. This could lead to profound disagreements between Trump and the Republicans.