President Donald Trump is relying less on advice from Defense Secretary James Mattis, with the retired Marine Corps general often learning about the president’s actions concerning the military after he announces them publicly, current and former White House sources say.
“They don’t really see eye-to-eye,” one of the sources, described as a former senior White House official who has closely observed the between the two, told NBC News.
According to NBC, Mattis learned in May from a colleague that Trump had decided to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal and ended up rushing to speak with the president by telephone shortly before the formal announcement was made, sources told NBC.
In June, Mattis learned that Trump ordered that the U.S. military’s exercises with South Korea were stopped after the president had made promises to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and just last week, Trump caught Mattis by surprise with his announcement about a sixth military branch to oversee space operations.
“He’s never been one of the go-tos in the gang that’s very close to the president,” a senior White House official told NBC News. “But the president has a lot of respect for him.”
Other sources, however, said that Trump believes Mattis looks down on him and has been slow-walking his policy directives, and that the president has come more to rely on himself or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton.
Mattis had opposed Bolton’s appointment.
A defense official said there is nothing showing Trump to be unhappy with Mattis, but still, the retired general is no longer considered to be in Trump’s inner circle. Further, the official said Mattis does not speak out publicly against the president, so he hasn’t made him angry.
Meanwhile, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White called NBC’s report “pure silliness,” and National Security Council Spokesman Garrett Marquis said that “for an unnamed expert to claim a department is not in the loop is ludicrous.”
Other Trump decisions that have been made include barring transgender people from serving openly in the military, sources told NBC. Further, Mattis opposed Trump’s proclamation sending National Guard troops to the Mexican border, they claimed.
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