In an interview with “60 Minutes” broadcast on Sunday, President Trump hinted that Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis could be the next Cabinet member to go. Asked by host Lesley Stahl if Mattis would stay at the Defense Department throughout the remainder of Trump’s term, the president hedged.
“Well, I don’t know,” he said. “He hasn’t told me that. I have a very good relationship with him. I had lunch with him two days ago. It could be that he is. I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth. But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That’s Washington.”
Trump say down for the interview only a few days after another top-level administration official, Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, announced that she would resign her position by the end of the year. It also comes after a bombshell book from Washington journalist Bob Woodward, within which Mattis was quoted as saying President Trump had the intelligence of a “fifth or sixth grader.” Mattis (and others quoted in the book) has denied saying anything of the like, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that the president was none too happy to hear about those remarks.
Even if Trump dismissed Woodward’s book as the work of a Democrat operative, it’s no secret that he and Mattis have been at odds on several issues over the last year and a half. Mattis was one of the key administration officials pressuring Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear agreement, and he has admonished the president for his wary stance on NATO. Mattis believes that the international alliance is a cornerstone of maintaining stability around the world, while President Trump sees it as an avenue through which our allies take advantage of U.S. generosity.
Just last month, however, Mattis himself said there was no truth to the rumor that he would be stepping aside anytime soon.
“Somebody cooks up a headline,” he said at the Pentagon in September. “They then call to a normally chatty class of people, they find a couple of other things to put in, they add the rumor, somebody else on the other coast starts writing the same thing — next thing you know you’ve got a story.”