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Rare: Mattis lashes out at ‘fictitious’ Bob Woodward book

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks to reporters aboard a military aircraft en route to New Delhi, India, Sept. 4, 2018. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
September 05, 2018

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has issued a rare rebuke of a yet-to-be-released book that claims Mattis joked how defense secretaries “don’t always get to choose the President they work for,” and also that he reportedly ignored a request from President Trump in April 2017 to kill Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in [Bob] Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence. While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility,” Mattis said in a statement Tuesday.

“Fear: Trump in the White House” is written by veteran DC reporter Bob Woodward and is slated for release on Sept. 11. Woodward’s book is based on extensive interviews with administration officials, and the interviews are apparently recorded on hundreds of hours of tapes.

The Washington Post leaked some of the book’s content on Tuesday.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Mattis reportedly told Trump during a National Security Council meeting about North Korea on Jan. 19.

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“After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, ‘Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — a fifth- or sixth-grader,'” the Post reported.

Woodward also writes that Mattis reportedly told friends, “Secretaries of defense don’t always get to choose the president they work for.”

In another instance, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered a chemicals weapons attack on citizens in April 2017, Trump and Mattis reportedly had a phone conversation where Mattis allegedly agreed to something Trump said on the phone but later told an aide something completely different.

Trump reportedly told Mattis on the phone, “Let’s f*cking kill him [Assad]! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f*cking lot of them,” according to Woodward.

Mattis allegedly agreed on the phone but then got off the phone and said to a senior aide, “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.”

This week in his statement, Mattis also said:

While responsible policy making in the real world is inherently messy, it is also essential that we challenge every assumption to find the best option. I embrace such debate and the open competition of ideas. In just over a year, these robust discussions and deliberations have yielded significant results, including the near annihilation of the ISIS caliphate, unprecedented burden sharing by our NATO allies, the repatriation of U.S. service member remains from North Korea, and the improved readiness of our armed forces. Our defense policies have also enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress.

In serving in this administration, the idea that I would show contempt for the elected Commander-in-Chief, President Trump, or tolerate disrespect to the office of the President from within our Department of Defense, is a product of someone’s rich imagination.

Trump tweeted his support of Mattis on Wednesday, sharing Mattis’ statement and writing “Thank you General Mattis, book is boring and untrue!”

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Trump also tweeted, “Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?”

Trump had earlier tweeted two stories, one from the Daily Caller and another from Breitbart, that reported about Mattis’ statement, as well.

The President had tweeted late Tuesday night, “The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions ‘mentally retarded’ and ‘a dumb southerner.’ I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!”