- President Donald Trump has continued to claim that former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was fired, not voluntarily resigned.
- Trump claimed to have asked Mattis for his resignation.
- The president’s mention of the incident contradicts a story written in Bob Woodward’s recent White House rage.
- In the book, Woodward wrote that Mattis made two copies of the letter of resignation – one copy to take with him to a controversial meeting with Trump, and another copy in his office, which will eventually be passed to news organizations.
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President Donald Trump has continued to claim that his former defense minister was fired, rather than voluntarily resigning, which was refuted by a recent White House instruction written by the award-winning Washington Post.
Speaking to an audience at ABC News City Hall on Tuesday, Trump criticized Jim Mattis, a four-star retired Marine general, as one of many “disgruntled former employees”; who left his administration under adverse circumstances.
“The highly overrated general did not do the job,” Trump said of the retired high-ranking officer.
Mattis announced his resignation in December 2018, citing disagreement with the president’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. The retreat, which Mattis strongly opposed, would lead to the abandonment of US allies in the region and conflict with what Mattis considered the lodester of American power.
“Since you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are more in line with yours on these and other topics, I think it’s right for me to step away from my position,” Mattis wrote in his dismissal to Trump.
But during the town hall on Tuesday, Trump said: “he did not resign.”
“Give me a letter. No more. Give me a letter,” Trump reminded himself. “I said, ‘Jim, give me the letter.’ It’s time for you to move on. “
“He gave me the letter, but I fired him,” Trump added. “It’s called, ‘I fired him.’ Now General Mattis hasn’t done the job. I wasn’t happy with him.”
The president’s mention of the incident contradicts a story written in Bob Woodward’s recent White House story, Anger. Woodward, an award-winning journalist best known for his work in uncovering the Watergate scandal in 1972, has written numerous books about American presidents and their top advisers based on extensive interviews with insiders.
In his latest book, published from more than a dozen sources, Woodward writes that Mattis made two copies of his resignation statement just before his meeting with the president. Mattis wanted to persuade Trump to cancel his abrupt decision to withdraw US troops from Syria in late December – a conversation he probably hoped would fail.
“Mattis took one copy of the dismissal letter and left the rest at the top of his desk drawer,” Woodward wrote.
In the end, Mattis failed to convince the president that the US presence in the region, apart from its allies, was important in the fight against ISIS.
“Mr. President, it’s probably best to read this,” Mattis said before handing his letter to Trump, Rage reports.
Trump reportedly responded to Mattis’ letter: “It’s not a very nice letter.”
“Mr. President, if you and I do not agree that we are parting ways with the Allies – as we look at the Allies – then the press will come out, rightly, with a hundred different reasons why I am leaving,” Mattis said.
Trump agreed with Mattis’ assessment and asked if the letter would be made public.
“It has to be public,” Mattis said. “Number one, it will flow if we don’t do it. Just lay it out and say, ‘That’s it.’
After leaving the White House, Mattis called his chief of staff and instructed him to pass the letter on his desk to the media, Woodward writes.
Mattis remained largely silent after his resignation, which severed ties with other former senior White House officials who unceremoniously left the Trump administration. However, in June, he published a statement for The Atlantic, in which he states that Trump is threatening the US Constitution.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my life who doesn’t try to unite the American people – he doesn’t even pretend to try. Instead, he’s trying to divide us,” Mattis wrote. “We are witnessing the effects of three years of focused efforts. We are witnessing the effects of three years without mature leadership.”
“We must reject and prosecute those who mock our Constitution in office,” Mattis added.