In an interview with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes that aired Sunday evening, President Trump spoke about his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, among the many other topics of discussion.
When asked about the reports of chaos in his administration, Trump said those reports are “fake news” and that he is entitled to change things around. He continued that he has a “great cabinet” but “there’re some people that I’m not happy with”, “I have some people that I’m not thrilled with. And I have other people that I’m beyond thrilled with”.
He demured to name names, but when Stahl asked about Mattis and whether he was going to leave, Trump said that Mattis had not told him that.
He continued, ” I have a very good relationship with him. It could be that he is. I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you wanna know the truth. But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That’s Washington.”
Per the Wall Street Journal, Mattis has not publicly stated an affliation with the Democratic or Republican parties.
Earlier in the converstation, Lesley Stahl asked the president if he was going to get rid of the Western Alliance, stating that it has “kept the peace for 70 years”. When Trump argued that she didn’t “know that”, Secretary Mattis was brought up.
Lesley Stahl: Is it true General Mattis said to you, “The reason for NATO and the reason for all these alliances is to prevent World War III?”
President Donald Trump: No, it’s not true.
Lesley Stahl: What’s not true?
President Donald Trump: Frankly, I like General Mattis. I think I know more about it than he does. And I know more about it from the standpoint of fairness, that I can tell you.
Lesley Stahl: I’m gonna try one more time. Okay.
President Donald Trump: I know– and, Lesley, you don’t have to try again. I know exactly what you’re saying–
Lesley Stahl: Well, answer my question.
President Donald Trump: The answer is this. I will always be there with NATO, but they have to pay their way. I’m fully in favor of NATO, but I don’t wanna be taken advantage of.CBS
General Mattis has dismissed rumors that he will be leaving his role as Secretary of Defense in recent weeks, telling officials in the Pentagon who are worried that he will be pushed out like H.R. McMaster was in April that he has no intention of resigning, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Bob Woodward’s recent book “Fear: Trump in the White House” depicted Mattis as ignoring presidential directives, specifically a directive to investigate the possibility of assassinating Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. Mattis was also speculated to be a candidate for authoring the anonymous op-ed published in the New York Times, which outlined a concerted effort to stymie harmful policies by an unfit president. The Pentagon denied rumors that Mattis was the anonymous author.
Mattis has been at odds with John Bolton, who took over for McMaster as National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who replaced Rex Tillerson. Mattis and the Pentagon view Russia and China as greater threats than Iran, which Pompeo and Bolton view as the greatest threat to America, according to the Wall Street Journal.
General Mattis has also disagreed with the president on how to achieve denuclearization of the Korean peninsula by advocating for diplomatic measures last summer.
Mad Dog Mattis reportedly is one member of a “suicide pact” made between himself, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin,and then Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. The reported pact was an agreement that if President Trump fired one of them, they would all quit. The three have never confirmed or denied the report and Mattis and Mnuchin remain, although Tillerson was fired in March.