Under President Donald Trump, the federal government has seen countless staff resignations. The president is currently on his third chief of staff, and he’s had two press secretaries in as many years (former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci only lasted 10 days). Secretary of Defense James Mattis is the most recent person to leave the Trump White House, and it’s a big deal.
Mattis announced that he was stepping down yesterday, December 20th. His announcement came after Trump declared that he plans to pull troops out of Syria and order 7,000 more to leave Afghanistan. Mattis was reportedly against both of these moves, and in his resignation letter, obtained by CNN, he wrote that the president should hire a new Secretary of Defense “whose views are better aligned” with his.
Mattis cited the president’s support of authoritarianism in countries like Russia as a reason for his departure, and he stressed the importance of the United States’s “unique and comprehensive system of alliances,” including NATO members. He argued that the U.S. should respect its allies—something that Trump has been criticized for failing to do.
As NPR notes, Mattis’s departure means only two of Trump’s original security and policy advisers remain (and one of those two, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, is also planning to leave by the end of the year). Mattis, a former four-star Marine Corps general, was also considered one of the few “adults in the room” in the Trump administration. According to NPR, he even reportedly convinced Trump not to torture captive terror suspects. Vox points out that he also may have persuaded Trump to deal diplomatically with North Korea and dissuaded the president from worsening Syria’s civil war by ordering the assassination of their president.
Many see Mattis’s departure as reason to worry.
Needless to say, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this one.