The Atlantic

James Mattis’s Final Protest Against the President

The defense secretary, who resigned on Thursday, was one of the last senior officials in the government who could constrain Donald Trump.
Source: Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters

Updated on December 20 at 7:35 p.m. ET

Secretary of Defense James Mattis is resigning over conflicts with President Donald Trump concerning American policy overseas—the highest-profile official to quit the administration over disagreements of principle with the president.

In a resignation letter, Mattis laid out a series of differences with Trump, who he said deserved to have a secretary of defense who was aligned with him. Mattis cited the importance of international alliances and partnerships, constraining Russia, and maintaining an American military presence overseas. By the standard of resignation letters, which typically flatter a president and avoid direct conflict, the missive is a scathing rebuke.

“I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours,” Mattis wrote. “It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions—to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.”

The news comes a day after Trump said that U.S. troops would. “A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!”

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