As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis travels throughout Europe, often in close proximity to President Donald Trump, he has stayed mum on the trail of verbal carnage his bombastic boss has left behind him.
According to a Sunday Washington Post report, even when he traveled with Trump to the NATO summit in Brussels, Mattis took great pains to avoid to limelight, declining to join Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton on stage during a press conference.
Mattis reportedly made an anodyne comment about a “good discussion” with the Croatian President and parroted some of Pence’s comments about the importance of American allies.
As Mattis believes in a unified Europe and strong action against Russian aggression, remaining invisible seems his best bet to avoid antagonizing his dissension-despising boss.
Per the Post, in Croatia Mattis spoke about “our shared democratic values” and the importance of “the rules-based international order,” the latter a phrase that Trump dislikes so much that it contributed to his refusal to sign the group statement after the G7 Summit in early June.
Mattis also dismissed characterizations of the NATO summit as contentious, calling it a a “very hearty discussion.”
His most obvious break with the President on his trip came Friday when he reportedly said that Russia has “chosen to come in, and to undermine the democratic fabric of nations that are young in their democratic processes. And whether through false news reporting, or economic strictures they are not seen as helpful, would be the most polite way to describe it.”
As Trump has reportedly cooled on his defense secretary, Mattis’ silence may be as much about self preservation as difference in philosophy.