Published: Sun, January 06, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Trump claims he 'essentially fired' Mattis

Trump claims he 'essentially fired' Mattis

Shanahan, 56, meanwhile, said his priorities would include the impending US troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China's military might.

Trump acknowledged that Shanahan could be in the job for a long time and the Pentagon appeared to be taking steps to prepare for an extended tenure - including naming someone to fulfill the role of deputy defense secretary provisionally.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan began his first full day at the helm of the Pentagon on Wednesday with an urgent list of geopolitical to-dos, including the US withdrawal from Syria.

In his Cabinet meeting remarks with reporters present, Trump said he was in no rush to get US troops out of Syria but did not clarify a timetable. Mr. Trump claimed he had "essentially" fired the former four-star Marine Corps general and criticized in particular Mr. Mattis' handling of the war in Afghanistan. The two have worked closely on the fiscal 2020 budget submission, which Shanahan has repeatedly pledged will be a "masterpiece" that puts the National Defense Strategy into motion.

"While we are focused on ongoing operations, Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to remember China, China, China", a defence official said.

Trump also said he wasn't happy with Mattis' work in Afghanistan.

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The Times said Webb could potentially allow Trump to bypass "more hawkish Republicans whose names have been floated to replace Jim Mattis". The US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not elaborate on Shanahan's views on China or what other guidance he gave during the meeting. Like the Obama administration, Trump's government is concerned by what it calls China's militarization of disputed areas in the South China Sea and by its advances in certain high-tech weaponry.

A defense official added that Shanahan had told colleagues a major concern would be China.

Separately, Shanahan's spokesman, Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, said that as part of Shanahan's ethics agreement he had stepped aside himself "for the duration of his service" at the Pentagon from "matters in which the Boeing Company is a party".

David Norquist, the Pentagon's comptroller, will perform the duties of the deputy as well as retain his current title.

Shanahan, 56, did not serve in the military and before but serving as deputy defense secretary he spent more than 30 years at Boeing. He has more than 28 years of federal financial management experience, according to his official Pentagon biography.

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