President Trump on Wednesday batted down speculation that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would be replaced, after the Washington Post published an op-ed alleging there was a “short list” of potential candidates to replace him.
“He’ll stay right there. We’re very — we’re very happy with him. We’re having a lot of victories. We’re having victories that people don’t even know about. And he’s highly respected all over the world,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question.
The Post‘s op-ed came after the release of some excerpts of journalist Bob Woodward’s book, Fear: Trump in the White House, which alleged that Mattis had made derogatory comments about Trump, including that Trump had the understanding of a “fifth or sixth grader.”
Mattis quickly issued a statement calling the book a work of “fiction,” and the claims a part of someone’s “rich imagination.”
“The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence,” he wrote.
“In serving in this administration, the idea that I would show contempt for the elected Commander-in-Chief, President Trump, or tolerate disrespect to the office of the President from within our Department of Defense, is a product of someone’s rich imagination.”
Trump said Mattis not only denied ever making the alleged comments, but that he offered to issue a statement.
“I asked him whether or not this was true. He said, ‘Not only is it not true; I’d like to write a statement.’ I said, ‘Thank you very much. That’s very nice.’ He wrote the most beautiful statement,” Trump said.
“I think he’s a terrific person. He’s doing a fantastic job as Secretary of Defense,” he added.
Trump joked it was the “nicest quote about me I think I’ve ever had.”
“In fact, Mitch has never said anything so nice,” he said to laughter, in reference to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I think Steve Scalise has said something just as nice.”
Trump tweeted Mattis’s statement out twice, including a Breitbart News story about Mattis’s statement on Tuesday:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
Kristina Wong is Breitbart News’ Pentagon Correspondent. You can find her at @kristina_wong.