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Angered By Coverage Of Mattis Resignation, Trump Speeds Departure

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Angered By Coverage Of Mattis Resignation, Trump Speeds Departure

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Infuriated over Defense Secretary James Mattis’ scathing letter of resignation, President Trump declared on Sunday that the defense secretary would be out of office two months before his planned February departure. Trump said he will replace Mattis almost immediately with Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive with little government experience and few qualifications.

Military commanders were reportedly stunned by Trump’s sudden move, which further destabilizes the Pentagon and service branches as they try to manage withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan. But rather than consider the impact of an abrupt change in leadership, Trump pushed Mattis out in reaction to coverage of the resignation letter, as senior administration officials told the Washington Post. The president reportedly was keen to embarrass the widely respected Mattis, whom he suspected of encouraging negative stories about the Trump White House.

Typically, Trump didn’t inform Mattis himself of the decision to speed up the defense secretary’s removal from office. Instead, the Post reported, he peevishly told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to call the defense secretary and inform Mattis of his decision.

Concluding what had long been a tense relationship, Mattis quit in protest last Thursday after Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria — despite strong objections from the defense secretary and others. (Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State, also resigned to protest the Syria decision.)

His replacement Shanahan, a mechanical engineer by training, has few relevant qualifications for a job that requires diplomatic and political skill. One acquaintance described him as “provincial” and “fairly right-wing,” but more importantly he is also said to have learned how to flatter Trump. Although absence of qualifications is usually no bar to a place in Trump’s cabinet, Shanahan probably will not be submitted for Senate confirmation as defense secretary. Administration officials have said that the search for a new defense secretary will begin immediately.

IMAGE: President-elect Donald Trump (L) and Vice President-elect Mike Pence (R) greet retired Marine General James Mattis in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

 

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Joe Conason

A highly experienced journalist, author and editor, Joe Conason is the editor-in-chief of The National Memo, founded in July 2011. He was formerly the executive editor of the New York Observer, where he wrote a popular political column for many years. His columns are distributed by Creators Syndicate and his reporting and writing have appeared in many publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Nation, and Harpers.

Since November 2006, he has served as editor of The Investigative Fund, a nonprofit journalism center, where he has assigned and edited dozens of award-winning articles and broadcasts. He is also the author of two New York Times bestselling books, The Hunting of the President (St. Martins Press, 2000) and Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth (St. Martins Press, 2003).

Currently he is working on a new book about former President Bill Clinton's life and work since leaving the White House in 2001. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, including MSNBC's Morning Joe, and lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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