Despite claiming he owes the Trump administration a “duty of silence,” former Secretary of Defense James Mattis is speaking out about his stormy tenure at the Pentagon, writing a new book and participating in interviews for the first time since his dramatic resignation eight months ago.
While the retired four-star Marine Corps general has not mentioned President Donald Trump by name, he has absolutely criticized his former commander in chief, with whom he sharply disagreed on matters of international engagement and alliances, in a string of recent public statements and interviews.
He also addresses policy matters as they relate to Trump in his forthcoming book, “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead.”
In an interview, Mattis defended his decision to resign: “I had no choice but to leave,” he said. “That’s why (my resignation) letter is in the book. I want people to understand why I couldn’t stay.”
“I’ve been informed by four decades of experience, and I just couldn’t connect the dots anymore,” he added.
Mattis did note that his code of silence has an expiration date.
“There is a period in which I owe my silence,” he said. “It’s not eternal. It’s not going to be forever.”
But like Trump’s former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who was abruptly fired via tweet, Mattis is making it very clear, in the short term, that he disagrees with many of Trump’s fundamental views about the world and the US’ role in it.
Since taking office, Trump, a frequent NATO skeptic, has been sharply critical of some members of the alliance, and notably broke with members of the G7 over the weekend in pushing for Russia to rejoin the group.
While serving in the Trump administration, Mattis and Tillerson publicly insisted they were on the same page.
But since leaving their posts, both men have spoken candidly about their frustrations, though they have avoided directly criticizing the President himself.