President Trump said he is unsure whether Defense Secretary James N. Mattis will leave the administration and described him as “sort of a Democrat” amid reports of friction between the two.
Trump made the remarks in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that airs Sunday night. An excerpt of the interview was released Sunday morning.
“Well, I don’t know; he hasn’t told me that,” Trump said when asked whether Mattis might be leaving his position.
Trump said that he has a “very good relationship” with Mattis and that the two had lunch together “two days ago,” but the president added that “it could be that he is” leaving.
“I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said. “But Gen. Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That’s Washington.”
Mattis has often publicly walked back some of Trump’s more controversial statements on foreign policy, and the two have a strained relationship, veteran journalist Bob Woodward has reported in his book “Fear.”
In one episode reported by Woodward, Mattis described Trump as having the understanding of “a fifth- or sixth-grader” after a National Security Council meeting. In another episode, after Trump said he wanted to have Syrian President Bashar Assad assassinated, Mattis reportedly agreed but later told an aide, “We’re not going to do any of that.”
Mattis has denied making disparaging comments about Trump, and the president said last month that the retired general was “doing a fantastic job.”
In the “60 minutes” interview, Trump also described reports of chaos within his administration as “so false,” dismissing concerns about the rate of turnover among his top officials.
“I’m changing things around, and I’m entitled to. I have people now on standby that will be phenomenal. They’ll come into the administration. They’ll be phenomenal,” Trump said.
He said that while he was satisfied with the performance of certain members of his administration, there are others “that I’m not thrilled with.”
“Yeah, other people will go, sure,” Trump said.
Sonmez writes for the Washington Post.