President Trump has denied reports that indicate his administration is actively seeking a replacement for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
A Washington Post op-ed ran Wednesday which suggested Pentagon officials were seeking to fill the role should Mattis step down. The report cites “many officials” who believe Mattis may depart “over the next few months.”
President Trump has denied the reports saying he is “very happy” with his current chief Pentagon official.
The Post does reveal that a departure in the coming months may simply reflect the usual stint for someone fulfilling the role of Defense Secretary, as it would mark roughly two years in the position. Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter each served between a year-and-a-half to two years prior to Mattis.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 5, 2018
Still, the President denies he is seeking replacements by citing recent comments made by Mattis about the Bob Woodward book fiasco.
“He just made the nicest quote about me I think I’ve ever had,” Trump said in response to the rumors. “In fact, Mitch (McConnell) has never said anything so nice about me.”
Woodward quoted Mattis in his book “Fear” in discussing why the United States had been spending resources on the Korean peninsula. Mattis allegedly stated, “the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.'”
Mattis denied the comments in his usual candor.
“The contemptuous words about the president attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence,” Mattis said in a statement posted to social media by the President himself.
“While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility.”
Trump had nothing but praise when queried about Mattis, saying “he’ll stay” in his role as Defense Secretary.
No Plans to Replace Mattis as SecDef, Trump Says https://t.co/DJp0jSEuhR
— Military.com (@Militarydotcom) September 6, 2018
Asked if he’ll remain at the Pentagon, Trump replied, “Yeah. He’ll stay … we’re very happy with him, we’re having a lot of victories, we’re having victories that people don’t even know about, and he’s highly respected all over the world.”
Victories such as those involving the decimation of the terrorist group ISIS who, on his first day on the job, ordered 31 military strikes against the group in Iraq and Syria.
Sec. Mattis on what keeps him awake at night pic.twitter.com/KtNgTfYeB2
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) May 28, 2017
The WaPo column discusses potential replacements for Mattis should he step down at some point, including Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch, hawkish supporter of President Trump, and Army Gen. Jack Keane who is said to be at the top of the list.
Graham has said he has no interest in a cabinet position, while Keane is respected by the President according to officials.