WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Sunday that Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired Army general, is “sort of a Democrat” and may step down as defense chief.
“It could be that he is” planning to leave the administration, Trump said, as per the excerpt of the transcript of an interview given to CBS’s “60 Minutes,” to be broadcast later on Sunday.
“I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth. But Gen. 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,” Trump told the TV show.
Trump, however, said that Mattis had not told him that he was going to step down.
Local media, including The New York Times, have been reporting for weeks Trump’s discontent with Mattis and the possibility that the president might replace him with someone less critical of his policies and more in line with the demeanor of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who endorses virtually every proposal made by Trump.
Mattis, a highly respected career military officer before he was tapped to head the Pentagon, has been very protective of the Armed Forces and, on many occasions, has battled the perception that they could be used for political ends.
According to the New York daily, the general could leave the Cabinet after the November midterm elections.
Mattis, known by his nickname “Mad Dog,” commanded the first US troops to invade Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 during the George W. Bush administration, and under President Barack Obama he became head of the Central Command, which is tasked with military operations in the Middle East.
Controversy swirled around Mattis in September with the release of veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s carefully researched and reported book “Fear,” which depicted him privately criticizing to associates Trump’s understanding of policy.
Mattis, however, has strongly denied making those reported remarks.