U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said President Donald Trump has reassured him of his full support after the Republican president described his Pentagon chief as “sort of a Democrat” who could leave the administration.
Mattis, speaking to reporters before landing in Vietnam on Tuesday, said he received the reassurance from Trump in a phone call during his nearly 20-hour flight from Washington.
“(Trump) said, ‘I’m 100 percent with you’,” Mattis recounted, playing down Trump’s remarks to CBS’ “60 Minutes,” which aired on Sunday.
Asked whether he was a Democrat, as Trump suggested, Mattis, disclosed that he had not registered as a Democrat or a Republican.
“I have never registered for any political party,” said Mattis, a retired Marine general.
Mattis sought to portray national defense as an issue above partisan politics. He also pointed to a long military career that taught him to act in a “proudly apolitical” manner, in which U.S. servicemembers carry out orders from Republican and Democratic presidents alike.
Mattis said he did not talk to Trump about leaving his job and dismissed speculation he was being pushed out.
“I’m on his team. We have never talked about me leaving. And as you can see right here, we are on our way (to Asia). We just continue doing our job,” Mattis said.
The remarks represented Mattis’ first and only response since Trump’s assertions to CBS raised questions about whether Mattis might be getting ready to leave his job, perhaps after mid-term U.S. elections next month.
Trump told the news program: “I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth. But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves.”
Mattis’ future has become a focus of media speculation, particularly after last month’s release of a book by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward that portrayed Mattis privately disparaging Trump to associates.
Mattis has strongly denied making any such remarks.
Trump had long been deferential toward Mattis, saying on Sept. 5 his defense chief would remain in his job.
Mattis has previously made no secret of the fact that he was not looking to become secretary of defense – or even return to Washington – when Trump was elected.
Mattis had stepped down from the military in 2013 and taken a job at Stanford University. He told his Senate confirmation hearing last year he was “enjoying a full life west of the Rockies” when the call came about the position.
Asked last month about reports he may be leaving, Mattis said: “I wouldn’t take it seriously at all.”
Western officials privately extol Mattis, whose standing among NATO allies has risen as they become increasingly bewildered by Trump’s policies on trade and Iran and disoriented by his outreach to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
One factor thought to have darkened Mattis’ prospects is this year’s arrival in the White House of Mira Ricardel, who has the powerful post of deputy national security adviser and is believed to dislike Mattis, current and former officials have told Reuters.
He is also seen as less hawkish on Iran than Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House National Security Adviser John Bolton.
New Zealand: 49 Killed In Mass Shooting At Two Mosques In Christchurch
49 persons have been killed and 20 seriously injured in two mass shootings at mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
Forty-one were killed at the al Noor mosque. Seven died at the Linwood mosque, and one person died at the hospital.
Police say four persons, including three men and one woman, have been taken into custody. They do not believe there are any other suspects but said it was still an open investigation.
Police said a male, in his late 20s, has been charged with murder and will appear at the Christchurch court Saturday morning local time.
In a social media post just before the attack, an account that is believed to belong to one of the attackers posted a link to an 87-page manifesto that was filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideas and explanations for an attack. The manifesto was not signed.
Britain Votes In Favor Of Delaying Brexit
Britain’s parliament has voted in favour of delaying by three months, UK’s departure from the European Union pending approval of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal within a week.
MPs in the house of commons voted four hundred twelve to two hundred two on Thursday in Favour of a government motion proposing pushing the UK’s exit from the bloc beyond the scheduled March the 29th date.
The motion said the government would seek a “one-off extension” until June the 30th “for the purpose of passing the necessary EU exit legislation,” provided May’s widely maligned deal wins parliament’s approval by Wednesday next week.
If May fails to win parliamentary approval for her deal by march 20, the Brexit delay could be extended beyond three months. Twice now, British legislators have overwhelmingly rejected her EU divorce deal.
Israel Launches Gaza Air Attacks After Rockets Fired At Tel Aviv
Israel launched air attacks on Gaza hours after rockets were fired aimed at Tel Aviv.
This has raised fears of a major escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Explosions were heard in the Gaza strip early on Friday and Palestinian witnesses said Israeli planes bombed Hamas security positions.
A Gaza Palestinian security source told AFP news agency about 30 raids targeted positions held by the military wing of Hamas and its ally Islamic jihad, causing significant damage.
Local Palestinian agencies reported a woman and her husband were both injured in the southern city of Rafah, but did not provide further details.
Israeli military said it was attacking “terror sites” in Gaza, hours after it said two rockets were launched from the enclave in the Tel Aviv area.
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