The Washington Post reports that growing tension between President Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has led to speculation that Mattis will abdicate his place in the cabinet. In an interview airing on 60 Minutes on Sunday, President Trump suggested that General Mattis may leave the administration after the midterm elections. “I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth,” Trump commented.
Tensions between President Trump and General Mattis may have grown after revelations in Bob Woodward’s recently released book Fear, in which Mattis is quoted as saying that it’s as if Trump has the understanding of a fifth or sixth grader. The New York Times reported that President Trump may have soured on Mattis, not only because Mattis has frequently balked at the President’s requests, but also because President Trump does not like being cast in an unfavorable light compared to the highly respected Mattis.
During the interview, President Trump contested that he has any ill feelings toward General Mattis, while also dodging the question of if he wants Mattis out, calling Mattis “a good guy” with whom the President has “a very good relationship.” However, “it could be” that Mattis is leaving. “He may leave,” the President states in the interview, “I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That’s Washington.”
According to the Brookings Institution, President Trump’s administration has the highest turnover rate of any that we have seen in decades. Of the past six administrations going back to Ronald Reagan’s first term, President Trump witnessed twice as many defections from his administration as any other president in the first year. Trump’s second year looks to suffer the most attrition since Reagan’s second year. Furthermore, President Trump’s total number of defections from the Cabinet through two years has already surpassed the number of President Bush’s and is nearly as many as President Obama through four years.
General Mattis’ departure would be the second major loss for President Trump’s administration in recent weeks, following the resignation of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Genearl Mattis was appointed to the post as Secretary of Defense and confirmed by the Senate in January 2017, though a special waiver was required as Mattis had not been retired from active duty for the required seven years prior to taking the post. He was the first confirmed Cabinet member of President Trump’s administration. He has publicly opposed the President on the topics of climate change, the Iran nuclear deal, and military collaboration with Russia.