Defense Secretary James Mattis resigns

By Veronica Rocha and Sophie Tatum, CNN
9:08 p.m. ET, December 20, 2018
7:32 p.m. ET, December 20, 2018

Mattis was livid today about Syria before meeting with Trump, officials say

From CNN's Ryan Browne

Two defense officials tell CNN that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis went to the White House to discuss Syria, and that Mattis was upset and “livid” after reading reports this morning about US local allies in Syria being targeted by Turkey following a withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

The officials said what set him off was a report that the Turkish Minister of Defense threatened to kill the US-backed Kurdish allies and put them “in ditches” once the US pulled out.

Mattis was incensed at this and the notion that the US was betraying an ally.

CNN reported earlier that Mattis decided to go to the White House early Thursday morning to discuss his concerns with Syria and try to change the President’s mind. Unable to change the Trump’s mind on the withdrawal from Syria, Mattis then resigned, according to a defense official and a White House official. 

7:49 p.m. ET, December 20, 2018

Mattis told his staff this afternoon that he resigned

From CNN's Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr

Defense Secretary James Mattis told his staff that he resigned after returning to the Pentagon this afternoon, according to Dana White, Pentagon chief spokesperson.

In a letter to President Trump, Mattis said he was resigning "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."

His last day: Mattis said he's leaving his post on Feb. 28, 2019.

The date, he said, "should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department's interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February."

6:58 p.m. ET, December 20, 2018

Lindsey Graham: Mattis provided "sound and ethical military advice" to Trump

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina said in a tweet that it was "with great sadness" that he learned that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would be leaving his position.

His tweet continued, saying that Mattis "is one of the great military leaders in American history."

In a second tweet, Graham noted that Mattis "has been in the fight against radical Islam for decades and provided sound and ethical military advice to President Trump."

6:55 p.m. ET, December 20, 2018

Sarah Sanders: Mattis and Trump have a "good relationship but sometimes they disagree"

From CNN's Liz Stark

Asked if Syria played a role in Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ decision to step down Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “He and the President have a good relationship but sometimes they disagree.”

“Secretary Mattis has served the country admirably for over four decades,” she told reporters on the North Lawn.

Sanders added:

“The President always listens to the members of his national security team. But at the end of the day, it’s the President’s decision to make.”

 

6:52 p.m. ET, December 20, 2018

Mattis tried to change Trump's mind on Syria before resigning

From CNN's Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Kaitlan Collins

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis decided to go to the White House to discuss his concerns with Syria and try to change President Trump’s mind, but was unable to.

He then resigned, according to a defense official and a White House official. 

Mattis and the President's other top national security advisers opposed Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria.

6:52 p.m. ET, December 20, 2018

Trump to pick Mattis replacement by end of year

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

President Donald Trump will pick a replacement for outgoing Secretary of Defense James Mattis by the end of the year, a senior official told CNN.

How the resignation happened: Mattis met with Trump one-on-one in the Oval Office, a senior White House official told CNN. Mattis told Trump he was going to be leaving and offered his resignation letter.

6:50 p.m. ET, December 20, 2018

READ: James Mattis' resignation letter

Defense Secretary James Mattis announced on Thursday he would be resigning from his position in the Trump administration -- leaving his role at the end of February.

The news came a day after President Donald Trump's surprise plans to withdraw American troops from Syria became public.

Mattis' resignation letter amounts to a rebuke of several of Trump's foreign policy views, with the outgoing defense secretary touting the importance of US alliances and of being "unambiguous" in approaching adversaries like Russia and China.

It is devoid of any praise for the President.

In his letter of resignation, Mattis said, "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."

Read his full letter of resignation here.

6:41 p.m. ET, December 20, 2018

Trump announced news via a tweet, saying Mattis was retiring

The news of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' departure initially came in the form of a tweet from President Donald Trump, who said Mattis' decision to leave was because he was "retiring."

"General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years. During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting ..." Trump wrote.

He continued in a second tweet: "... equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!"

6:40 p.m. ET, December 20, 2018

Mattis quits, says his views aren't "aligned'" with Trump's

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond and Barbara Starr

Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned Thursday on the heels of President Donald Trump's plans to withdraw troops from Syria, citing irreconcilable policy differences in a move that took Washington by surprise.

"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 wrote in his letter to the President.

Mattis' resignation letter amounts to a rebuke of several of Trump's foreign policy views, with the outgoing defense secretary touting the importance of US alliances and of being "unambiguous" in approaching adversaries like Russia and China. It is devoid of any praise for the President.