- Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigned this month, reportedly in response to the decision to withdraw from Syria.
- President Donald Trump initially heralded Mattis, saying he would leave at the end of February.
- But Trump reportedly grew angry and pushed the Pentagon chief out early.
The phone call Tom Mattis got from Jim Mattis on Sunday morning wasn’t a pleasant one, but he said his younger brother was “unruffled” by President Donald Trump’s decision to force him out early, the elder Mattis told The Seattle Times.
“He was very calm about the whole thing. Very matter of fact. No anger,” Tom Mattis told The Seattle Times. “As I have said many times in other circumstances, Jim knows who he is … many more Americans (now) know his character.”
Jim Mattis announced his resignation as defence secretary on December 20, reportedly prompted in large part by Trump’s decision to withdraw the roughly 2,000 US troops deployed to Syria.
Mattis went to the White House that day in an effort to get Trump to keep US forces in the war-torn country. Mattis “was rebuffed, and told the president that he was resigning as a result,” The New York Times said at the time.
Trump initially reacted to Mattis’ resignation gracefully, tweeting that the defence chief and retired Marine general would be “retiring, with distinction, at the end of February,” echoing Mattis’ resignation letter.
But Trump reportedly bridled at coverage of Mattis and his letter, which was widely interpreted as a rebuke of Trump and of the president’s worldview.
On December 23, Trump abruptly announced that Mattis would leave office two months early, sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to tell Mattis of the change. Deputy Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over the top civilian job at the Pentagon in an acting capacity.
Trump’s sudden move to push Mattis out was reportedly a retaliatory measure, but Mattis evinced no ire over it when he told his older brother on Sunday.
The Mattises are natives of Richland, Washington. Tom, who was also a Marine, still lives there, as does their 96-year-old mother, Lucille.
Tom said his brother was faithful to the Constitution and would always speak truth to power “regardless of the consequences.”
“No one should assume that his service to his country will end. And the manner of his departure is yet another service to the nation. It is the very definition of patriotism and integrity,” Tom Mattis added.
Jim Mattis – who checks in with their mother almost daily, Tom Mattis said – had no plans to return home from Christmas, according to the elder Mattis, hoping instead to visit troops in the Middle East.
But Trump’s announcement appeared to forestall that trip.
On December 19, a day before his resignation, Mattis released a holiday message to US service members, telling them “thanks for keeping the faith.”
On December 24, Mattis signed an order withdrawing US troops from Syria, the Defence Department said, though a timeline and specific details are still being worked on. On Christmas Day, Mattis was reportedly in his office at the Pentagon.
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