- President Donald Trump went on to claim that former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was fired rather than voluntarily resign.
- Trump claimed he asked Mattis for a letter of resignation.
- The president’s recollection of the incident contradicts the account written in Bob Woodward’s recent White House tale, “Rage.”
- In the book, Woodward wrote that Mattis made two copies of his resignation letter – one copy to take to a controversial meeting with Trump and the other copy in his office, which would eventually be released to news organizations.
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President Donald Trump went on to claim that his former defense secretary was fired rather than voluntarily resigning, a claim rejected by a recent White House tale written by an award-winning Washington Post journalist.
Speaking to an audience at an ABC News town hall on Tuesday, Trump criticized Jim Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, as one of the many “disgruntled former employees”
“Very overrated general, did not do the job,” Trump said of the highly honored retired officer.
Mattis announced his resignation in December 2018, citing disagreement with the president’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. The withdrawal, which Mattis strongly opposed, would abandon American allies in the region and conflict with what Mattis believed to be the guiding star in America’s strength.
“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better suited to yours on this and other issues, I think it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter to Trump.
But during City Hall Tuesday, Trump claimed, “he did not withdraw.”
“Give me a letter. No more. Give me a letter,” Trump reminded himself. “I said, ‘Jim, give me a letter. It’s time for you to move on.'”
“He gave me a letter, but I fired him,” Trump added. “It’s called, ‘I fired him.’ “General Mattis did not do the job. I was not happy with him.”
The president’s recollection of the incident contradicts the account written in Bob Woodward’s recent White House tale, “Rage.” Woodward, an award-winning journalist known for his work in uncovering the 1972 Watergate scandal, has written several books about U.S. presidents and their top advisers based on extensive interviews with insiders.
In his latest book, which comes from over a dozen sources, Woodward wrote that Mattis had prepared two copies of a letter of resignation immediately before his meeting with the president. Mattis wanted to persuade Trump to withdraw his sudden decision to withdraw US forces from Syria in late December – a conversation he half expected would fail.
Mattis took a copy of his resignation letter and left the remaining copy on top of his desk drawer, Woodward wrote.
Mattis eventually failed to persuade the president that the US presence in the region in addition to its allies was crucial to the fight against ISIS.
“Mr. President, it’s probably best you read this,” Mattis said before handing Trump his letter, according to “Rage.”
Trump reportedly responded to Mattis’ letter: “It’s not a really nice letter.”
“Mr. President, if you and I do not agree that we are different from the Allies – the way we look at Allies – the press will rightly come up with a hundred different reasons why I am leaving,” Mattis replied.
Trump agreed with Mattis’ assessment and asked if the letter should be made public.
“It has to be public,” Mattis said. “Number one, it’s delicious if we do not. Just put things out there and say, ‘This is all it is.'”
After leaving the White House, Mattis called his chief of staff and instructed him to release the letter on his desk to the media, Woodward wrote.
Mattis was mostly silent after his resignation, a move that broke with other former senior White House officials who left the Trump administration in an unpretentious manner. In June, however, he issued a statement to The Atlantic suggesting that Trump was a threat to the U.S. Constitution.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people – does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis wrote. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this conscious effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
“We must reject and hold accountable those who are officials who make fun of our constitution,” Mattis added.