Fraying ties with Trump put Mattis’ fate in doubt
WASHINGTON Back when their relationship was fresh and new, and United States President Donald Trump still called his defence secretary “Mad Dog” – a nickname Mr James Mattis detests – the wiry retired Marine general often took a dinner break to eat burgers with his boss in the White House residence.
Using his folksy manner, Mr Mattis talked the President out of ordering torture against terrorism detainees and persuaded him to send thousands more American troops to Afghanistan – all without igniting the public Twitter castigations that have plagued other national security officials.
But the burger dinners have stopped.
Interviews with more than a dozen White House, congressional and current and former Defence Department officials over the past six weeks paint a portrait of a president who has soured on his defence secretary, weary of unfavourable comparisons to Mr Mattis as the adult in the room, and increasingly concerned that he is a Democrat at heart.
Nearly all the officials, as well as confidants of Mr Mattis, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal tensions – in some cases, out of fear of losing their jobs.
In the second year of his presidency, Mr Trump has largely tuned out his national security aides as he feels more confident as commander-in-chief, the officials said.
Facing what is likely to be a heated re-election fight once the 2018 midterms are over, aides said Mr Trump was pondering whether he wanted someone running the