Secretary of Defense James Mattis has reportedly responded to former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s repeated requests to appear on Sunday morning television talk shows with another “Mattisism.”
According to an excerpt from Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” Mattis lashed out at Spicer, who is an officer in the Navy Reserve. The passage was apparently revealed by White House Associated Press journalist Zeke Miller, who got an early glimpse of the book: “Sean, I’ve killed people for a living. If you call me again, I’m going to f–king send you to Afghanistan. Are we clear?” That is what Woodward alleged Mattis said.
The Secretary of Defense has made only one televised appearance on a network show since he took the job in the Trump administration in January 2017. During an appearance on “Face the Nation” in May 2017, he told host John Dickerson that nothing keeps him awake at night, adding instead that “I keep other people awake at night.”
Woodward’s new book has drawn considerable attention for, among other things, the light it shines on the divide between the White House and the Pentagon.
In one section, Woodward examines the President’s disconnect from matters of national security, which prompted Trump to question why the United States was even devoting precious military resources to Korea in the first place.
“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Mattis answered.
Woodward wrote: “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed,” following the National Security Council meeting on January 19th, “telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’”
The statement was refuted by Mattis and he issued a statement last week condemning the book.
“The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence,” Mattis explained. “While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility.
“In serving in this administration, the idea that I would show contempt for the elected Commander-in-Chief, President Trump, or tolerate disrespect to the office of the President from within our Department of Defense, is a product of someone’s rich imagination,” he added.
According to the book, Mattis also had to rein in U.S. policy after a phone call in which President Trump supposedly ranted about wanting to “f–king kill” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In addition to Mattis, Chief of Staff John Kelly is featured in Woodward’s book, calling the President “unhinged.”
“He’s an idiot,” Kelly is reported as saying about President Trump. “It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had,” Woodward alleges Kelly said.
Kelly refuted the excerpt. “The idea I ever called the president an idiot is not true,” said Kelly, calling the book “another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”