President Donald Trump disparaged just-departed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at his first Cabinet meeting of the new year, criticizing management of the Afghanistan war and claiming he “essentially” fired the four-star general, who abruptly resigned last month.
Trump prefaced his comments Wednesday by saying Mattis had personally thanked him for helping secure $716 billion for national security in the current fiscal year. But then he quickly turned.
'What’s he done for me?” Trump said. “How had he done in Afghanistan? Not too good.”
The president — who was exempted from the draft during the Vietnam War over bone spurs — added that U.S. generals have done a bad job in Afghanistan over nearly two decades and said that he thinks he “would’ve been a good general, but who knows.”
Trump spoke during a Cabinet meeting in which Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan took part. Shanahan, speaking earlier, largely limited his comments to discussing the Pentagon’s cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security on border issues.
Mattis announced his resignation in a searing letter just before Christmas, that highlighted his differences with the president over the role of American leadership and alliances. In the letter, Mattis said he would step down Feb. 28, but Trump later accelerated that to the end of the year.
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