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Jim Mattis refuses to criticize Trump: ‘I quit on him, that says enough’

Then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis meets with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 2017. (Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley/Department of Defense)
December 11, 2019

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis has once again refused to criticize President Trump.

While at a Wall Street Journal CEO Council event on Tuesday, Mattis said of his former boss, “I quit on him. I think that says enough,” as WSJ reported.

“The people who want me to say more generally are ones who want me to come out against the president,” he added.

Mattis added that his resignation followed his disagreement with the Trump administration’s plan to pull U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

In his resignation letter to President Trump last year, Mattis wrote, “because you have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours … I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

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The letter came one day after Trump announced the full withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria and months of rumors of tensions between Trump and Mattis.

In August, Mattis had said in an interview, “I had no choice but to leave.”

Mattis said at the time that he included his resignation letter in his book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, so people could understand “why I couldn’t stay.”

“I’ve been informed by four decades of experience, and I just couldn’t connect the dots anymore,” he explained at the time.

Other than reiterating his disagreement with Trump, Mattis has been steadfast in his refusal to criticize the president, standing by his belief that it’s inappropriate to criticize a sitting president – an opinion he has voiced repeatedly since his resignation.

Mattis did take a joking jab at Trump during a comedic roast-style charity dinner in October.

At that event, Mattis responded to Trump’s remarks that he was “the world’s most overrated general.”

“I’m not just an overrated general. I’m the world’s greatest overrated general,” Mattis joked. “I’m honored to be called that by Donald Trump, because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actor. So I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals.”

“The only person in the military Mr. Trump does not feel is overrated,” Mattis said. “That’s Colonel Sanders,” referring to the founder and character symbol of the restaurant Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Mattis addressed as to whether or not Trump’s “overrated” comments had bothered him. “Of course not,” he said. “I earned my spurs on the battlefield.”

On Tuesday, Mattis also declined to speak about Trump’s intervention in pardoning three service members in high profile war crimes cases. Mattis said only that discipline in the military was important.