27 December 2018

Trump, Angry Over Mattis’s Rebuke, Considers Removing Him 2 Months Early

by Helene Cooper

WASHINGTON — President Trump, angry over days of news coverage characterizing the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as a rebuke of the president, has told administration officials that he is considering removing Mr. Mattis from his job by Jan. 1, two months before he had planned to depart.

Mr. Trump has told aides that he wants to name Patrick M. Shanahan, Mr. Mattis’s deputy, as the acting defense secretary while he searches for a permanent replacement.

The president, a notoriously mercurial leader, has been known to float ideas among his aides only to then change his mind. But aides said he was furious that Mr. Mattis’s resignation letter — in which he rebuked the president’s rejection of international allies and his failure to check authoritarian governments — had led to days of negative news coverage.

When Mr. Trump first announced that Mr. Mattis was leaving, effective Feb. 28, he praised the defense secretary on Twitter. One aide said that though Mr. Trump already had the resignation letter when he praised Mr. Mattis, he did not understand just how forceful a rejection of his strategy Mr. Mattis had issued.

The president has grown increasingly angry as the days have passed, the aide said. On Saturday, Mr. Trump posted a tweet that took a jab at Mr. Mattis, saying that “when President Obama ingloriously fired Jim Mattis, I gave him a second chance. Some thought I shouldn’t, I thought I should.”

Mr. Mattis, a retired four-star general, led the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, from 2010 to 2013. His tour there was cut short by the Obama administration, which believed he was too hawkish on Iran.

Mr. Shanahan, who, like Mr. Mattis, is from Washington State, is a former Boeing executive. Aides say that Mr. Trump likes him in part because he often tells the president that he is correct to complain about the expense of defense systems.The New York Times · by Helene Cooper · December 23, 2018

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