James Mattis Reveals That He Had ‘No Choice But To Leave’ Donald Trump’s White House

Mattis also insisted on a period of silence before opening up about his time working for President Donald Trump.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens as U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions during a meeting.
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Mattis also insisted on a period of silence before opening up about his time working for President Donald Trump.

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned from President Donald Trump’s administration in December over foreign policy differences, revealed in a recent interview that he “no choice but to leave.”

“That’s why the letter is in the book. I want people to understand why I couldn’t stay. I’ve been informed by four decades of experience, and I just couldn’t connect the dots anymore,” Mattis said in an interview with The Atlantic, according to The Hill.

During the interview, Mattis explained that while he’ll eventually talk about his time serving as Trump’s top military official, for the time being, he’s invoking a French concept known as “devoir de réserve,” which means “duty of silence.”

“If you leave an administration, you owe some silence,” Mattis said.

But the inside track on what it’s like working for the Trump administration likely won’t be coming from Mattis’ first book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, which is set to be published September 3. The Hill reported that early reviews of the book do not indicate that it’s a tell-all.

Mattis also explained that when one leaves an administration, staying mum about one’s time there gives the remaining officials a chance to maintain the protection of the country and also suggested that any public criticisms of the administration would be counterproductive.

“They still have the responsibility of protecting this great big experiment of ours. I know the malevolence some people feel for this country, and we have to give the people who are protecting us some time to carry out their duties without me adding my criticism to the cacophony that is right now so poisonous,” Mattis said.

Mattis, a revered U.S. Marine Corps general, once known as “Mad Dog” Mattis, left the Trump administration after the president made the somewhat unpopular decision to withdraw troops from Syria. That military move was not one that Mattis agreed with.

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The former secretary announced in his resignation letter at the time that he would be leaving the office by February 1, but the president moved his exit date up to January 1.

According to Politico, his resignation letter was seen by many as a subtle rebuke to Trump’s style of foreign policy.

Though Mattis maintained he would remain silent for the time being, he told The Atlantic that his silence will not last forever, hinting that at some point in the future, the country could find out a lot more about what really happened during his time in the Trump White House.