In more evidence that Donald Trump isn’t the tough leader he claims to be, former Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly refused to carry out his orders on multiple occasions in order to prevent disastrous consequences.
According to Dexter Filkins of The New Yorker, Mattis repeatedly “tried to block White House initiatives” on military matters, from Afghanistan and Syria to North Korea and Iran.
“We prevented a lot of bad things from happening,” one senior administration official said, according to the report.
The New Yorker notes that “administration officials speculate that Mattis was trying to avoid a war, or that he simply wanted to control the flow of information, so that the President could not make ill-advised decisions.”
More from the report:
On numerous occasions, current and former officials say, Mattis tried to block White House initiatives, leaving McMaster caught in the middle. In the fall of 2017, McMaster was planning a private session to develop military options for the possibility of conflict with North Korea: a war game, with Trump in attendance, at the Presidential retreat in Camp David. McMaster asked Mattis to send officers and planners. Mattis ignored him. “He prevented the thing from happening,” the former senior Administration official told me. Later, Mattis kept General John Nicholson, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, from meeting with Trump.
Administration officials speculate that Mattis was trying to avoid a war, or that he simply wanted to control the flow of information, so that the President could not make ill-advised decisions. “There are a lot of people in the Administration who want to limit the President’s options because they don’t want the President to get anything done,” the former senior Administration official told me.
“The President thinks out loud,” he said. “Do you treat it like an order? Or do you treat it as part of a longer conversation? We treated it as part of a longer conversation.” By allowing Trump to talk without acting, he said, “we prevented a lot of bad things from happening.” In 2017, Mattis and his staff helped forestall a complete withdrawal of American forces from both Afghanistan and Syria.
Trump’s own people don’t view him as a strongman
Since Donald Trump entered the political arena, he has tried hard to build a reputation as a strongman. It’s why he looks up to authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un – he wants to be them.
But despite Trump’s recent claim that “nobody disobeys” his commands, the opposite appears to be true. Not only do those around him not respect him and his ability to lead the country, but they often refuse to follow his dangerous whims.
Whether it’s James Mattis refusing to carry out orders that could trigger a war or White House officials refusing to obeys Trump’s attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation, this president has not yet successfully become the all-powerful dictator he wants to be.
There is no guarantee that will continue, however.
In recent months, as Trump’s presidency has plunged into chaos and a growing number of key officials either step down or get fired, the president is surrounded by almost no adults. The bumpers have largely been removed from the lanes of the federal government.
That’s why it is important that Democrats continue to ramp up efforts to hold this administration accountable using all the tools at their disposal – and it’s why voters must turn out next fall to replace this president with an adult.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.