The Latest: Trump says he fired Mattis, who left over Syria

January 2, 2019
FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2018, file photo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks during the 2018 POW/MIA National Recognition Day Ceremony at the Pentagon. Outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is quoting President Abraham Lincoln in a farewell message to defense employees, urging them to stay focused on their mission. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the change atop the Defense Department (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he fired Jim Mattis as defense secretary. But the retired Marine general actually resigned in protest over Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria.

Mattis announced on Dec. 20 that he was stepping down, but would stay on the job until the end of February. Three days later, Trump said he was replacing Mattis with the second-ranking defense official, Pat Shanahan, on New Year’s Day.

At a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump said Mattis “couldn’t believe” how much federal money Trump had helped secure for the military.

Trump then asked rhetorically “What’s he done for me?”

Trump also said he wasn’t happy with Mattis’ work in Afghanistan. Trump says the U.S. should let the Taliban and Islamic State militants fight each other there.


11:20 a.m.

On his first day as acting defense secretary, Pat Shanahan is emphasizing that China should be the Pentagon’s main focus.

Aides say Shanahan, who’s leading the Pentagon after the departure of Jim Mattis, struck the China theme at a meeting Wednesday with the department’s top civilian leaders, including the heads of the military services.

The aides aren’t authorized to publicly discuss internal defense meetings and are speaking on condition of condition of anonymity.

One aide says Shanahan told the gathering that he’s focused on the strategy written and implemented under Mattis that focuses on Russia and China as “great power” competitors. In that context, Shanahan told the civilian leaders to remember, in his words, “China, China, China.”

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