Trump calls Mattis ‘sort of a Democrat’
President unsure whether the defense secretary will exit job.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said he is unsure whether Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, will leave the administration amid reports of friction between the two.
“I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said.
Trump made those comments about Mattis and a wide range of topics in a “60 Minutes” interview broadcast Sunday night on CBS.
The president added that he did not know whether Mattis would be the next major departure from his administration, following the abrupt resignation announcement last week by Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and the expected exit this fall of Don McGahn, the White House counsel.
“But General Mattis is a good guy,” Trump said. “We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That’s Washington.”
Trump also backed off his claim that climate change is a hoax but said he doesn’t know if it’s humancaused and suggested that the climate will “change back again.”
Trump said he doesn’t want to
put the U.S. at a disadvantage in responding to climate change.
“I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this: I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”
Trump called climate change a hoax in November 2012 when he sent a tweet stating, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” He later said he was joking about the Chinese connection.
“I’m not denying climate change,” he said in the interview. “But it could very well go back.”
Trump, who is scheduled today to visit areas of Georgia and Florida damaged by Hurricane Michael, also expressed doubt over scientists’ findings linking the changing climate to more powerful hurricanes.
“They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael,” said Trump, who identified “they” as “people” after being pressed by “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl. She asked, “What about the scientists who say it’s worse than ever?” the president replied, “You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda.”
On a different topic, Trump told “60 Minutes” that he’s been surprised by Washington being a tough, deceptive and divisive place.
“So I always used to say the toughest people are Manhattan real estate guys and blah, blah,” he said. “Now I say they’re babies.”
In the White House, Mattis has been seen as one of the “adults” in the orbit of a president who took office with no military or foreign policy experience and who has in some cases favored loyalists over seasoned officials for top posts.
But that notion has annoyed the president, and a breach has developed between the men over some of the most high-profile items on Trump’s military agenda.
Never a direct critic in public, Mattis has privately disagreed with the president on issues like NATO policy, Trump’s decision to cancel large-scale joint exercises with the South Koreans, and the long-term effectiveness of the president’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
Asked about Trump’s comments, Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “Secretary Mattis is laser-focused on doing his job — ensuring the U.S. military remains the most lethal force on the planet.”
President Donald Trump told “60 Minutes” that he did not know if Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would be the next major departure from his administration.