- President Donald Trump has continued to claim that former Defense Secretary Jim Mathis has been fired instead of resigning voluntarily.
- Trump says he asked Matisse to resign.
- The president’s recollection of the incident contradicts a story written in Bob Woodward’s recent White House rage.
- In the book, Woodward writes that Mathis made two copies of his resignation letter – one copy to take with him to a controversial meeting with Trump, and the other copy in his office, which will eventually be released to news organizations.
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump went on to claim that his former defense minister had been fired, rather than voluntarily resigning, a claim that was refuted by a recent White House publication written by an award-winning Washington Post journalist.
Speaking to an audience at ABC News City Hall on Tuesday, Trump criticized Jim Mathis, a retired four-star Marine general, as one of many “disgruntled former employees”
“A highly overrated general, he didn’t do the job,” Trump told the highly respected retired officer.
Matisse announced his resignation in December 2018, citing disagreements with the president’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. The withdrawal, which Mathis strongly opposed, would abandon American allies in the region and conflict with what Mathis considered a loser in America’s power.
“Since you have the right to have a defense minister whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other topics, I believe it is right for him to step down,” Mathis wrote in his resignation letter to Trump.
But during a mayor’s office Tuesday, Trump said, “he didn’t resign.”
“Give me a letter. No more. Give me a letter,” Trump recalled. “I said,” Jim, give me the letter. It’s time to move on. “
“He gave me a letter, but I fired him,” Trump added. “It’s called ‘I fired him.’ Now General Mathis is not done. I was not happy with him. “
The president’s recollection of the incident contradicts a story written in Bob Woodward’s recent White House rage. Woodward, an award-winning journalist best known for his work in uncovering the Watergate scandal in 1972, has written numerous books about American presidents and their best advisers based on extensive interviews with insiders.
In his latest book, which has been received from more than a dozen sources, Woodward writes that Mathis prepared two copies of the resignation letter just before his meeting with the president. Mathis wanted to persuade Trump to overturn his sudden decision to withdraw US forces from Syria in late December – a conversation he half-expected would fail.
Matisse took a copy of his resignation letter and left the remaining copy on a drawer on his desk, Woodward writes.
In the end, Mathis failed to convince the president that the US presence in the region, in addition to his allies, was essential to the fight against ISIL.
“Mr. President, it’s probably best to read this,” Mathis said before handing over his letter to Trump, according to Rage.
Trump reportedly responded to Mathis’ letter: “This is not a really good letter.”
“Mr President, if you and I do not agree that we are parting with the Allies – the way we look at the Allies – then the press will come out, rightly, with a hundred different reasons why I am leaving,” Matisse replied.
Trump agreed with Mathis’ assessment and asked if the letter would be published.
“It has to be in the public domain,” Mathis said. “Number one will expire if we don’t. Just put the thing in there and say, ‘That’s it.’
After leaving the White House, Mathis called his chief of staff and ordered him to send the letter on his desk to the media, Woodward writes.
Matisse was largely silent after his resignation, a move that broke with other former senior White House officials who left the Trump administration unceremoniously. In June, however, he issued a statement to The Atlantic alleging that Trump was a threat to the US constitution.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my life who is not trying to unite the American people – he is not even pretending to be trying. Instead, he is trying to divide us,” Mathis wrote. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
“We must reject and hold accountable those who will mock our constitution,” Mathis added.