Defense Secretary James N. Mattis is not going anywhere anytime soon.
The former four-star Marine Corps general told reporters on Tuesday that rumors of his imminent departure as Pentagon chief are overblown, and were part of the ongoing parlor game in Washington, attempting to predict the next cabinet departure from the Trump White House.
“How many times have we been through this, now, just since I’ve been here? It will die down soon, and the people who started the rumor will be allowed to write the next rumor, too,” he said Tuesday. “I wouldn’t take it seriously at all,” he added, regarding chatter concerning his tenure at the Defense Department.
Concern over Mr. Mattis’ future at the Pentagon has been spurred on in recent weeks, most notably over comments the defense chief made about Mr. Trump and his administration in Bob Woodward’s recent expose on the Trump White House. Other media reports have stated Mr. Mattis’ relationship with Mr. Trump and other administration officials have faltered in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon chief attributed such reports to a “chatty class” of Washington elites, eager to weigh in on the ongoing palace intrigue at the White House. “Somebody cooks up a headline. They then call to a normally chatty class of people. They find a couple of other things to put in,” Mr. Mattis said. “They add the rumors… Next thing you know, you’ve got a story,” he added.
Mr. Mattis is one of the last remaining members of Mr. Trump’s initial cabinet appointments to spearhead U.S. national security and defense policy.
Mr. Trump selected Mr. Pompeo, who was already head of CIA at the White House’s behest, to replace former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March. Later that same month, then National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster resigned his position in the White House, to be replaced by former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton.
During their tenure, Mr. Mattis, Mr. Tillerson and Gen. McMaster were seen as calming influences within the nascent administration, tamping down and at times walking back some of the White House’s more bellicose rhetoric toward China, Iran and North Korea. All three men were also critical in rolling back some of Mr. Trump’s more inflammatory rhetoric against European powers within the NATO alliance.