Washington, Oct 16 (IANS) US Defence Secretary James Mattis has said that he never spoke to the President about resigning from his position and was continuing with his job, after Donald Trump called him a “sort of a Democrat” and said that the Pentagon chief may be leaving his post.
Speaking to reporters en route to Vietnam, 68-year-old Mattis said he had never registered for any political party, having joined the military when he was 18 and adhered to its apolitical underpinnings as Republicans and Democrats alike came and went as Commander-in-Chief, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
“I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth,” Trump had said in an interview on CBS News’s “60 Minutes” aired on Sunday.
“But Gen. Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves… That’s Washington,” he had said.
Mattis said he had not spoken to Trump about his comments and didn’t watch the interview. “We continue in the Department of Defence to do our job. It’s no problem.”
“Where am I today? I’m a member of the President’s administration. And you have seen President Trump’s military policies, security policies, reaping significant bipartisan support,” the retired Marine Corps general said, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon.
“When you think 83 per cent of the US Congress voting the same way on an issue put forward by the Republican President, you can see that my portfolio is bipartisan by its very basis, and that is the protection of the US,” Mattis added.
There has been a lot of speculation about Mattis’ future in the Trump administration in recent weeks, particularly after journalist Bob Woodward released a book claiming that the Defence Secretary had said the President had the understanding of a fifth or sixth-grader.
However, Mattis denied making the comments and dismissed Woodward’s reporting as “fiction”.
Mattis disagrees with Trump on key policy issues. He advocated for an extended presence in Afghanistan, pushed to keep the US in the Iran nuclear deal and argued against the cancellation of certain military exercises with South Korea as part of nuclear talks with Pyongyang.
The Defence Secretary refused to comment on Saudi Arabia’s alleged killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, saying that he would wait until Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s return from Riyadh.
“I need to have the facts first. I know it’s unusual at times in government circles. Some people talk quickly.”