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Trump says Mattis to leave Jan. 1, two months early

President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr/Department of Defense)
December 24, 2018

Following the sudden resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis, President Trump made a surprise announcement himself when he revealed that he’d be replacing Mattis earlier than planned.

In his resignation letter on Thursday, Mattis said he would remain in his post until Feb. 28 to provide enough time for the President to find a replacement. That search was short lived when President Trump announced Mattis’ replacement on Sunday.

“I am pleased to announce that our very talented Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, will assume the title of Acting Secretary of Defense starting January 1, 2019. Patrick has a long list of accomplishments while serving as Deputy, & previously Boeing. He will be great!” Trump tweeted.

A source told CNN that Mattis’ last day is now slated to be Jan. 1, and no public ceremonies are expected to be held for his departure.

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A senior official said that the naming of the new defense secretary took place swiftly in order to facilitate a “smooth transition” between secretaries.

“It is just untenable to have someone stretch out over a long period of time when everyone knows they are a lame duck,” the official said. “There shouldn’t be any ambiguity that the person in charge is following the president’s policies.”

President Trump was reportedly angered by the resignation letter and the media coverage of it in the following days, which led to the escalation of Mattis’ replacement.

In what has been considered a jab toward Mattis, President Trump tweeted on Saturday, saying, “When President Obama ingloriously fired Jim Mattis, I gave him a second chance. Some thought I shouldn’t, I thought I should. Interesting relationship-but I also gave all of the resources that he never really had. Allies are very important-but not when they take advantage of U.S.”

Many have expressed concern over Mattis’ resignation. The retired four-star Marine Corps general had a 44-year-long military career and previously headed the U.S. Central Command overseeing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He was hailed as one of the greatest military minds of our time.

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In his resignation letter, Mattis told the President, “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

Mattis’ resignation came one day after President Trump announced the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and a bold declaration that ISIS was defeated, despite contradictions from the Pentagon and criticisms from Republican members of Congress.

In stark contrast to Mattis, Shanahan has an engineering background, not a military background. Prior to his appointment to Deputy Defense Secretary in Mar. 2017, he spent over three decades in various leadership and executive roles at Boeing, according to his DoD biography. He oversaw various aviation programs, including U.S. Army programs involving the Osprey, Chinook, and Apache helicopters.