DID CLASHES OVER SYRIA, AFGHANISTAN PUSH MATTIS OUT? - President Trump said Thursday evening that Defense Secretary James Mattis will be retiring in February, in a shock announcement adding to the list of the president's outgoing Cabinet members after his second year in office ... Mattis will step down "with distinction" after serving in his role for two years, the president said on Twitter.
In his resignation letter to the president, Mattis wrote, "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." This sparked reports that concern over Trump's plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan directly led to Mattis' resignation. A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News that Mattis was not pushed out of his role and this was not a forced resignation.
A source with knowledge of the resignation tells FOX News that Mattis came to the White House Thursday with his resignation letter already drawn up and that while he spoke to the President Trump about Syria, the writing had been on the wall far before the Syria decision. The real precipitating event, one source said, was when the president named Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley to be in line to succeed General Joe Dunford as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mattis had been campaigning for Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Like Dunford and John Kelly, Goldfein was tightly aligned with Mattis, but Milley was independent. Trump wanted a more independent chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
A source tells FOX News that two early candidates being considered to replace Mattis are: General Jack Keane, a FOX News contributor, and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.- Reported by John Roberts and Elizabeth Zwirz