Shaken, saddened, scared: Washington erupts over Mattis resignation

Shaken, disappointed, saddened and scared -- those were just some of the reactions in a bipartisan outpourin...

Posted: Dec 21, 2018 4:58 PM
Updated: Dec 21, 2018 4:58 PM

Shaken, disappointed, saddened and scared -- those were just some of the reactions in a bipartisan outpouring of shock and concern as lawmakers reacted Thursday to the news that Defense Secretary James Mattis had resigned over President Donald Trump's policy decisions.

"Just read Gen. Mattis resignation letter," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted. "It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances & empower our adversaries."

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"This chaos," Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich said on Twitter, "both foreign and domestic, is putting America in danger and must stop immediately."

RELATED: Mattis quits, says his views aren't 'aligned' with Trump's

At the Pentagon, military officers and civilian officials expressed dismay at the news, but the overriding sentiment was shock. "People are stunned," CNN's Ryan Browne reported.

'The wheels may be coming off'

"This is scary," tweeted Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Secretary Mattis has been an island of stability amidst the chaos of the Trump administration."

News of Mattis' resignation broke as Trump faced an imminent government shutdown, the Dow had plunged more than 1,200 points since Monday and the President was being blasted for foreign policy decisions. On Wednesday, Trump had announced that the US will pull its troops from Syria because "we have defeated ISIS," and earlier Thursday, CNN's Jake Tapper reported that officials throughout the administration were bracing themselves for Trump to make an announcement about the US presence in Afghanistan.

"The wheels may be coming off," said a conservative House Republican who supports Trump, commenting on the news about Mattis' departure at the end of February.

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that "the kind of leadership that causes a dedicated patriot like Jim Mattis to leave should give pause to every American."

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta simply sounded furious. "The last damn thing we need is more chaos and crisis," Panetta told CNN's Erin Burnett.

"This is a President who operates somehow by his gut instinct and how he reads the politics of the moment," Panetta said.

"He enjoys chaos" because he believes it brings him more attention, "but a steady diet of chaos creates hell for the American people," Panetta continued. "We need a president who is going to make the right decisions and provide stability for this country."

'Straw that broke the camel's back'

Mattis said in his resignation letter to Trump that "because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position."

The letter capped months of tension over policy disagreements and amounted to a rebuke of several of Trump's foreign policy views. The defense secretary stressed the importance of US alliances and of being "unambiguous" in approaching adversaries like Russia and China. It did not contain a whiff of praise for the President.

Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat who's the incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he believes the President's decision on Syria was "the straw that broke the camel's back" for Mattis.

"He couldn't just go along with it," Engel said. "How can you continue to work for an administration whose foreign policy is not something that you believe? ... How can you keep working for a boss whose policies you don't believe in?"

Others called, directly and indirectly, for oversight and possibly intervention.

Warner tweeted that "as we've seen with the President's haphazard approach to Syria, our national defense is too important to be subjected to the President's erratic whims."

Rubio tweeted, "I hope we who have supported this administrations initiatives over the last two years can persuade the President to choose a different direction. But we must also fulfill our constitutional duty to conduct oversight over the policies of the executive branch."

Sen. Ben Sasse said it was a "sad day" for America.

"General Mattis was giving advice the President needs to hear," the Nebraska Republican said in a statement. "Mattis rightly believes that Russia and China are clear adversaries and that we are at war with jihadists across the globe who plot to kill Americans at home. Isolationism is a weak strategy that will harm Americans and America's allies. Radical Islamic jihadists are still at war with us, and no ISIS is not gone."

House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry said he was "disappointed" that Mattis is leaving, though he said he wants to write out his thoughts before elaborating.

Asked if he has any interest in the job, the Texas Republican jumped into an elevator and said he "scoffed" at the notion.

Thornberry's replacement, the incoming chairman of Armed Services, Rep. Adam Smith, said the news of Mattis' resignation is "very disappointing."

"He will be missed," the Washington state Democrat said.

'There is chaos now'

"I'm sad. I'm shaken by it. I had so much respect for him," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN. Like many, the California Democrat expressed discomfort at Trump's erratic and impulsive leadership style. Mattis had been a "comfort to many of us as a voice of stability in the Trump administration," Pelosi told reporters later.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Mattis "one of the few symbols" of "strength and stability" in the administration. "There is chaos now," he said.

"This week was one of the most chaotic weeks we've ever seen in American government," the New York Democrat added.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, headlining a town hall in Iowa on Thursday, responded to the news by suggesting that it is now only Trump and his adviser Stephen Miller making decisions together.

"I at least had some peace in knowing there were adults in the room, and now (chief of staff John) Kelly and Mattis are gone," the California Democrat said, calling the prospect of decisions by Miller and Trump "terrifying."

He added: "Some of the best hope for order at the White House, those people are leaving."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, sometimes seen as a possible candidate for defense secretary, tweeted that he'd learned of the news "with great sadness."

Graham, a strong Trump supporter who nonetheless opposes the President's decision to pull out of Syria, continued: "Mattis is a combination of intellect and integrity. He has been in the fight against radical Islam for decades and provided sound and ethical military advice to President Trump."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Thursday, in strong comments by his standards: "I believe it's essential that the United States maintain and strengthen the post-World War II alliances that have been carefully built by leaders in both parties. We must also maintain a clear-eyed understanding of our friends and foes, and recognize that nations like Russia are among the latter. So I was sorry to learn that Secretary Mattis, who shares those clear principles, will soon depart the administration."

"But I am particularly distressed that he is resigning due to sharp differences with the president on these and other key aspects of America's global leadership," the Kentucky Republican said in a statement, "It is regrettable that the president must now choose a new Secretary of Defense. But I urge him to select a leader who shares Secretary Mattis's understanding of these vital principles and his total commitment to America's servicemembers."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
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Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
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Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
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Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
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George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
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Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
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Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
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Marion4265112
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Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
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Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
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Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844951

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161002006
Mobile741871379
Madison53279732
Shelby38325368
Baldwin38068589
Tuscaloosa36009641
Montgomery34482781
Lee25550263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22451406
Etowah20013517
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Houston17727425
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Cullman16044303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14968306
Talladega14189299
DeKalb12967269
Walker12020380
Blount10714192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10157194
Coffee9414192
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Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7254201
Russell707765
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6932195
Franklin6340108
Chambers5783142
Marion5401130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318189
Cherokee317563
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254460
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184947
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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