Dear Commons Community,
As the Trump’s shutdown of the federal government continues with little hope of resolution soon, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was told to leave office immediately by the White House rather than continue in his position.
There is little hope that the federal government shutdown would end this week. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney warned that the shutdown could stretch into January, when a new Congress is seated.
Mulvaney, who also runs the White House budget office, said he’s awaiting a response from Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York after the administration on Saturday presented Schumer with a counteroffer in the long-running dispute over funding the wall.
Mulvaney withheld specifics but placed the offer at between Trump’s $5.7 billion request and $1.3 billion Democrats are offering.
“We moved off of the five and we hope they move up from their 1.3,” Mulvaney said.
The director’s comment about the president’s softening stance came less than 24 hours after a senior administration official insisted to reporters on Saturday that Congress give into Trump’s demands, highlighting the unpredictable nature of Trump’s negotiating style.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., argued instead for increasing the use of technology along the border instead of building “some medieval wall.”
During the shutdown discussions, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was told that his resignation was being accepted immediately and that he would be replaced by January 1, 2019. In his resignation letter, Mr. Mattis had issued a stinging rebuke of Mr. Trump over his neglect of allies and tolerance of authoritarians. The president grew increasingly angry as he watched a parade of defense analysts go on television to extol Mr. Mattis’s bravery, another aide said, until he decided yesterday that he had had enough.
In a tweet yesterday, the president announced that he was removing Mr. Mattis from his post and that Patrick M. Shanahan, Mr. Mattis’s deputy and a former Boeing executive, would serve as the acting defense secretary, praising him as “very talented” and adding that “he will be great!”
Mr. Trump’s sudden announcement that he was firing a man who had already quit was the exclamation point to a tumultuous week at the Pentagon, where officials have been reeling from day after day of presidential tweets announcing changes in American military policy.
Mr. Mattis had wanted to stay through a NATO defense ministers meeting scheduled for February, hoping to enshrine recent moves by the alliance to bulk up its security compact as a bulwark against Russia. But Mr. Mattis’s resignation letter did him no favors on that count: It had become hard to envision how he could continue for two months to represent a president whose own views toward Russia are far more benign.
As it became clear that the two men’s ideas of how to treat both friends and adversaries were so publicly at odds, the White House decided that there would be no reason for Mr. Mattis to stay on for two more months.
All the best to Mr. Mattis!