Defense Secretary Jim Mattis submitted a biting resignation letter last week, offering rebuke of President Donald Trump’s position regarding U.S. allies and decision to withdraw American troops from Syria — and zero praise of the Commander in Chief.
None of that sat well with the president, who — after initially lauding Mattis — announced on Sunday that he is forcing the general out two months earlier than Mattis planned, tweeting that a replacement will step in on January 1.
Mr. Trump, in a Twitter post, said that Patrick M. Shanahan, Mr. Mattis’s deputy, would serve as the acting defense secretary.
Aides said that the president was furious that Mr. Mattis’s resignation letter — in which he rebuked the president’s rejection of international allies and his failure to check authoritarian governments — had led to days of negative news coverage. Mr. Mattis resigned in large part over Mr. Trump’s hasty decision to withdraw American forces from Syria.
When Mr. Trump first announced that Mr. Mattis was leaving, effective Feb. 28, he praised the defense secretary on Twitter, saying he was retiring “with distinction.” One aide said that although Mr. Trump had already seen the resignation letter when he praised Mr. Mattis, the president did not understand just how forceful a rejection of his strategy Mr. Mattis had issued.
Over the ensuing news cycle, Trump has only grown more angry, culminating with his decision to replace Mattis on his own terms.
White House aides told The Times that Trump favors Shanahan “in part because he often tells the president that he is correct to complain about the expense of defense systems.”