Mattis Refuses To Fan The Flames Of Fraught Trump Relationship Rumors

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens as President Donald Trump answers questions during a meeting with military leaders in the Cabinet Room on October 23, 2018. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis denied the notion that he didn’t have a “good relationship” with President Donald Trump during his first live interview since resigning from the administration on CBS Monday morning.

“It was completely my decision to leave,” Mattis said when asked whether he was forced out of the Trump administration. “I had, I believe, a good relationship with the President.”

Mattis then denied having a “forthright” relationship with Trump and that “there just came a point when [he] thought [Trump] needed a different secretary of defense.”

“I read some of the stories that we didn’t have a good relationship, that it was very forthright,” Mattis said. “I would have time with the President weekly over lunch, private lunch, or in his office. The President knew everything I was doing and I understood what the President wanted done.”

Earlier in the interview, Mattis echoed his comments last week in taking a “duty of silence” after leaving the Trump administration. Mattis has said that his decision to resign centered around a difference of opinion battle with Trump on Syria.

“We have a million troops around the world who are trying to defend this experiment called America,” Mattis said. “I don’t believe that administration officials should leave the administration and then start creating controversy with comments outside when they owe a period — I would even call it a duty of silence long enough for the secretary of state, the President, secretary of defense to protect the country.”

When asked why he is releasing his book “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead” now – after a two-year release delay and a five-year writing period — Mattis cited his view that “government service is a privilege” and “a duty.”

“I was brought up that way when any President, Republican or Democrat, asks you to do something, as long as you’re prepared to do it you just roll up your sleeves and you work,” Mattis said. “You don’t get into wringing your hands and wondering about it — just pitch in and do the best you can and help support the governance of the country.”

Mattis concluded the interview by saying that he agrees that “divisiveness inside this country is probably the biggest threat” and that it’s not only on Trump or his administration to heal it.

“Well I think this is not about one person or one administration. This goes back a while and it’s time at least for the majority of us to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” Mattis said. “There are many areas where I think we have agreement — we’re no longer talking about those and we need to talk about common ground as much as we need to talk about where we disagree.”

Watch clips from Mattis’ interview on CBS below:

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