President Trump slammed former Defense Secretary James N. Mattis Wednesday at his first Cabinet meeting without him, saying he “essentially” fired the retired Marine Corps general.
“What’s he done for me? How had he done in Afghanistan? Not too good,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Mattis, who resigned last month.
Mr. Trump added, “As you know, President Obama fired him, and essentially so did I.”
Mr. Mattis and the president disagreed over Mr. Trump’s desire to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The defense secretary planned to leave his post at the end of February, but Mr. Trump pushed up his departure date to Dec. 31.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan attended the Cabinet meeting.
Mr. Trump said Mr. Mattis was “so thrilled” when the president met his request to beef up the Pentagon’s budget to more than $700 billion per year. But he said the defense secretary didn’t reciprocate by giving him the policy results he was seeking.
“I’m not happy with what he’s done in Afghanistan,” the president said. “I want results.”
Mr. Trump added during a discussion of Afghanistan, “I think I would have been a good general, but who knows?”
Of Syria, the president said, “I don’t want to be in Syria forever. It’s sand and it’s death.”
He said of Mr. Mattis, “I wish him well.”