Donald Trump boasts he ‘essentially’ fired James Mattis

  • Trump blasts ex-Pentagon chief after initially praising him
  • ‘What’s he done for me? How had he done in Afghanistan? Not too good’
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 1:04pm

This story is published in a content partnership with POLITICO. It was originally reported by Caitlin Oprysko on on January 2, 2019.

US President Donald Trump showed Wednesday that there is no love lost between himself and his recently departed Defence Secretary James Mattis.

In a meeting with members of his Cabinet, Trump boasted that he had “essentially” fired Mattis by moving up the four-star general’s departure date by two months.

He also criticised his former Pentagon chief for his lack of progress in ending US involvement in military conflicts in the Middle East.

He balked in particular at Mattis’ record in Afghanistan, where Trump has reportedly pushed to significantly cut the troop presence.

"What's he done for me?” Trump asked.

“How had he done in Afghanistan? Not too good. I'm not happy with what he's done in Afghanistan and I shouldn't be happy. He was very happy."

Mattis announced his resignation days after Trump said he was planning to pull US troops completely out of war-torn Syria, at first declaring Islamic State had been defeated and then asserting that the militant group should be handled by other countries in the region.

‘China, China, China’: Trump’s new Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan sets US defence priorities

Mattis, who disagreed with the plan, offered his resignation after failing to convince Trump to reverse course on the pull-out.

Trump initially praised Mattis for his service in a tweet, writing that he would be retiring “with distinction” and that he was responsible for making “tremendous progress” toward Trump’s objectives during his two-year tenure.

But Trump was reportedly irked by news coverage of Mattis’ impending departure that focused on his resignation letter in which he cited policy differences with the president and said Trump was abandoning US allies.

Trump's public posture toward Mattis chilled quickly after.

Here is US Defence Secretary James Mattis’ resignation letter to Donald Trump, in full

Trump tweeted days later that Mattis would depart the administration at the beginning of the year, as opposed to his initial departure date of February 28, writing that he had given Mattis a “second chance” in government after he was “ingloriously fired” by former President Barack Obama.

Obama let Mattis go as the head of US Central Command in 2013 in large part because of Mattis' increasingly hawkish stance on Iran.

On Wednesday, Trump proclaimed to Cabinet members and the assembled press that "as you know, President Obama fired [Mattis], and essentially, so did I."

Though Trump later added that he wished Mattis well in retirement, Mattis handed over the reigns of the Pentagon to Deputy Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan this week without the pomp and circumstance typical of departing secretaries of defence.