President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that Secretary of Defense James Mattis would be resigning from the administration within a couple of months. A resignation letter from Mattis released later that day that led many pundits to speculate that there was a rift in the West Wing — but White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders soon set the record straight.
Sanders assured reporters on Thursday that despite reports to the contrary, Mattis and Trump had — and continue to have — a solid relationship.
“They had a long conversation, but again, they have a good relationship and we expect them to continue to have a good relationship,” Sanders said.
Cooperation, even when they disagree
Sanders went on to assure reporters that Trump and Mattis will continue to work together respectfully for at least the next several months.
“The president has a great deal of respect for Secretary Mattis and he is going to stay on for another couple of months, I think that is a great indicator of the type of cooperation they have,” she said.
But the reporters must not have been buying what Sanders was selling, because she had to reiterate several times while speaking with them that, despite whatever differences they may have on certain policy issues, the two men are nevertheless on good terms with each other.
“He and the president have a good relationship, but sometimes they disagree,” Sanders said. “That doesn’t mean you don’t have a good relationship with somebody.”
She added that in his resignation letter — wherein the general outlined some issues on which he disagrees with the president — Mattis was simply “laying out the reasons he was stepping down from his post.”
That letter from Mattis, wherein he thanked the president for the opportunity and privilege to serve the country and heralded the progress made in improving the military, addressed the pair’s differences on issues like respecting international alliances and being unambiguous in standing against our nation’s enemies and rivals.
“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote.
The pair will continue to work together until the end of February 2019, and, according to Sanders, it’s set to be a smooth transition.
A replacement for Mattis has not yet been announced.