Was Mattis fired? Or did he quit?

Matt Saintsing
February 01, 2019 - 12:14 pm

DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

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In a what-in-the-world-is-going-on turn of events, President Donald Trump now claims that he gave former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the ax because he “wasn’t happy with the job he was doing at all.” 

Trump sat with the New York Times for an interview on Thursday offering his views on a wide range of issues. 

When Times White House reporter Maggie Haberman asked him his thoughts about a permanent Defense Secretary when Trump said, “so I wasn’t happy with Mattis.”

RELATED: Mattis resigning as Pentagon chief after clashes with Trump

“I told Mattis to give me a letter,” said Trump. “He didn’t just give me that letter. I told him. And you could have seen that on ’60 Minutes.’ I did ‘60 Minutes,’ and Lesley Stahl asked me a question: ‘What do you think of General Mattis?’”

He called him a Democrat. Mattis said later that he's never registered with any political party. 

Trump continued, “I didn’t like the job he was doing. I wasn’t happy with it.” He went on to say that the Pentagon received “more money than the military has ever seen before” but that he “wasn’t happy with the job he was doing at all.” 

“And I said it’s time,” said Trump. 

Haberman tried to get Trump to say who is in the running for the job now, but he said: “I have a lot of great people that want it.” 

He then praised acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, who’s been serving in the role since Mattis left the Defense Department. 

Mattis offered Trump his resignation in December, just after Trump announced plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. In the letter, he cited policy differences. 

“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 Trump. 

RELATED: Mattis says farewell

As news broke that Mattis would leave the top Pentagon post, the White House referred to his departure as a “retirement.” On Jan. 2, Trump said during a White House Cabinet meeting that he “essentially” fired Mattis for failing to defeat the Taliban and end the war in Afghanistan. 

“What’s he done for me? How bad he's done in Afghanistan? Not too good. I’m not happy with what he’s done in Afghanistan, and I shouldn’t be happy,” said Trump. 

Mattis is considered a legendary retired Marine four-star general with great popularity within the military. According to a poll conducted by Military Times last fall, nearly 84 percent of troops held Mattis in high regard. 

Trump also falsely said that one of his accomplishments is implementing the Veterans Choice program, an accessible path for veterans to use private health care providers outside of the VA. 

“They’ve been trying—as long as you’ve been writing they’ve been trying to get VA Choice,” he said of the program, which is not new, but has actually been around since 2014. 

He then alluded to an upgrade of sorts to community care options for veterans. “And now I’m going to do Phase 2 on VA Choice, which is, you know, the next step,” said Trump. 

“Phase 2” is most likely a reference to the VA MISSION Act, which is set to go into effect this summer. On Wednesday, the VA unveiled new guidelines expanding access private-sector medical care. 

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