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Trump: I 'Essentially' Fired Mattis

And on Syria: 'We're talking about sand and death'
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2019 5:14 PM CST
President Trump with then Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(Newser) – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned last month. Not so, per President Trump, who said during a Wednesday Cabinet meeting that he “essentially” fired Mattis for poor performance, the New York Times reports. During the meeting, according to CNN, the president boasted of scoring hundreds of millions of dollars for the military but said Mattis failed to deliver. "What's he done for me? How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good. Not too good. I'm not happy with what he's done in Afghanistan, and I shouldn't be happy.” In what the Times calls a “stunning letter of resignation,” Mattis in December said he’d stay on board until February. Trump, in turn, moved the date up to Jan. 1, naming Mattis' deputy Patrick Shanahan as acting defense secretary.

Also on Wednesday, the president declined to specify a timeline for withdrawing troops from Syria—a move that prompted Mattis to resign—and said that country was not worth US involvement. “We're not talking about vast wealth. We're talking about sand and death," he said. Trump—who, CNN notes, avoided military service during the Vietnam War era due to a diagnosis of bone spurs—also mused that he “would’ve been a good general, but who knows.” (Mattis quoted Lincoln in his farewell to staff.)

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