President Trump announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon that his Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis will be leaving the White House at the end of February.
“General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years,” Trump tweeted.
….equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
There had been speculation earlier this year that Mattis would be leaving the White House, but he had denied the rumors, saying, “I wouldn’t take it seriously at all. It’s like most of those kind of things in this town: Somebody cooks up a headline; they find a couple of other things to put in; they add the rumor; somebody on the other coast starts writing the same thing – the next thing you know, you’ve got a story.”
The news comes as the two clashed over President Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria. Mattis argued that the U.S. counterterrorism mission in the country was not complete and that the U.S. should remain. He felt that leaving would add more chaos in the region and leave the area open to future problems.
Once referred to as “One of my generals” by President Trump, the two have clashed more often recently. Trump vetoed Mattis’ choice for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ignored concerns about deploying U.S. troops to the U.S. border with Mexico, and abruptly decided to pursue a relationship with North Korea. Mattis was one of the staunchest skeptics when it came to North Korea’s pledge of denuclearization.
Mattis is the last of the military officers Trump originally brought into his presidency.