In a piece published this week, The New Yorker magazine reports that former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis often ignored orders and requests from President Donald Trump and administration officials, earning him an “obstructionist” reputation among key officials.
Mattis ignored orders from Trump and officials on situations in North Korea, Iran and elsewhere, as detailed by author Dexter Filkins in his piece, “John Bolton on the warpath.”
In 2017, for example, when former National Security Advisor Gen. H. R. McMaster asked the Pentagon for options on how to counter Iran’s efforts to influence Iraq’s elections, no options were provided.
A former aide to McMaster asked Mattis what happened to the options, Filkins reports, and he said, “I asked him [Mattis] what happened to the options. He told me, ‘We resisted those.’ You could feel everyone in the meeting go, ‘Excuse me?’”
More recently, in the spring of 2018, when National Security Advisor John Bolton had asked the Pentagon for options on what do in Syria in the wake of reported chemical attacks, Mattis only provided one option for “a limited strike with cruise missiles,” according to The New Yorker.
“Mattis is an obstructionist,” a person familiar with Bolton’s thinking told Filkins. “He seemed to forget that it was the President who was elected.”
Jim Mattis sought to deflect President Trump from what he thought were ill-advised decisions in North Korea or Afghanistan by limiting his options.https://t.co/QEZDTI6ww2
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) April 29, 2019
“The President thinks out loud,” a former senior national security official told Filkins. “Do you treat it like an order? Or do you treat it as part of a longer conversation? We treated it as part of a longer conversation. […] We prevented a lot of bad things from happening.”
Mattis also reportedly blocked people from meeting with Trump, Filkins noted.
McMaster at one point wanted to host a “war game” with the President at Camp David in 2017, in preparation for military options for North Korea in the event of a possible conflict. But Mattis “ignored him,” Filkins writes.
“He [Mattis] prevented the thing from happening,” a former senior Trump administration official told The New Yorker.
Mattis also blocked U.S. Forces – Afghanistan Commander Gen. John Nicholson from meeting with Trump, the report claims.
“There are a lot of people in the Administration who want to limit the President’s options because they don’t want the President to get anything done,” the former senior administration official told Filkins.
A former aide also told Filkins, “Who the hell elected Mattis President of the United States?
Mattis submitted a letter of resignation to Trump late last year, in 2018. Trump confirmed the news in a tweet on Dec. 20, confirming that Mattis was “retiring, with distinction.”
However, within days, Trump announced that Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan would take over as Acting Defense Secretary as of Jan. 1, pushing Mattis out nearly two months ahead of his intended departure date.
Trump was reportedly angered by Mattis’ resignation letter and the media coverage of it in the following days, which led to the escalation of Mattis’ replacement.
Mattis declined to comment to The New Yorker for the piece.