Will the metaphorical revolving door at the front of the Trump White House ever stop spinning? According to a new report from The Washington Post, the answer is no. Reporter Josh Rogin shares that for weeks, internal White House discussions have included deliberation over who will replace Defense Secretary James Mattis when he leaves. A number of anonymous officials share that retired four-star Army Gen. Jack Keane is at the top of the metaphorical list, and others under consideration include Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ala.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), former Treasury Department official David McCormick, and former Senator Jim Talent of Missouri.
This week, the pressure Mattis is facing as one of those advising the infamously volatile President Donald Trump spiked when it came out that he’d (allegedly) compared the president to a fifth or sixth grader behind his back.
An anonymous Trump official shares:
‘The speculation about who replaces Mattis is now more real than ever. The president has always respected him. But now he has every reason to wonder what Mattis is saying behind his back. The relationship has nowhere to go but down, fast.’
The jab, shared as part of the pre-release hype of journalist Bob Woodward’s new Trump tell-all Fear, came after a meeting in which Trump questioned why the U.S. maintains a military presence on the Korean peninsula.
That presence carries benefits like the ability to detect a North Korean missile launch in less than ten seconds, and Mattis allegedly sought to explain to the president that in light of that and other benefits, the military’s Korean peninsula work helps prevent World War III. Trump has publicly sought to undercut the United States’ abilities on that front anyway, abruptly cancelling joint military exercises with the South Koreans that had been set for this fall.
Despite the belligerence from the president, Mattis has — unsurprisingly — pushed back against Fear‘s claims, declaring the book “fiction.”
He’s among a number of those close to the president to speak out against the publication, but the odds are in Woodward’s favor, not that of the going line from the Trump White House.
For instance, Woodward claims that behind the scenes, Trump has denounced Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “mentally retarded” — and although Trump claims Woodward is lying, the president has very publicly and harshly gone after Sessions time and time again.
Trump even admitted — in a backhanded way — to at least some of what Woodward alleges, tweeting:
‘I’m tough as hell on people & if I weren’t, nothing would get done. Also, I question everybody & everything-which is why I got elected!’
Meanwhile, the world — and his own administration — continue to go on without him back here on planet earth.
An anonymous senior Trump administration official — whose curious use of the word “we” suggests they may be Cabinet level (and thus could in theory by Defense Secretary Mattis — among a host of others) — wrote this week in The New York Times that “many of the senior officials in [Trump’s] own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” and to “preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
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