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‘Hold fast, alongside our allies’: Read Jim Mattis’ farewell letter as he leaves Pentagon

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‘Hold fast, alongside our allies’: Read Jim Mattis’ farewell letter as he leaves Pentagon


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Defense Secretary James Mattis turning in his resignation, but some of these other high-level Trump administration officials didn’t get that choice.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Outgoing Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis urged Pentagon employees to “keep the faith” and “hold fast” in his farewell letter Monday, his final day on the job. 

The retired Marine Corps general resigned on Dec. 20 after disagreeing with President Donald Trump on several policy issues, including the president’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and his treatment of America’s allies. 

In his farewell letter, Mattis indicated the Department of Defense was facing a difficult period in its history, without specifically addressing who or what was the source of the challenges it is currently confronting. 

He quoted an 1865 telegram from President Abraham Lincoln to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant that reads, “Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements.” 

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He said the department “remains in the best possible hands” and that he is “confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life.” 

“Our Department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult,” he wrote. “So keep faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes.” 

The reference to America’s allies evoked a line from his resignation letter in which he told Trump, “we cannot protect our interests … without effectively maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.” 

More: Read Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation letter

In that letter, Mattis also warned the president that China and Russia “want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model.” He told Trump that he should have a secretary of defense “whose views are better aligned with yours.” 

Mattis had planned for his resignation to take effect on Feb. 28 to allow Trump time to pick his replacement. But as lawmakers on Capitol Hill and news media personalities reacted with alarm to the secretary of defense’s resignation and his apparent break with the president, Trump announced Mattis would be out on Jan.1

More: Donald Trump disputes departing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis over Russia, China

Trump named Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan as an interim replacement for Mattis. Shanahan, a former Boeing Co. executive with no previous government or military experience, will serve in the role until the president puts forth a permanent replacement for Senate confirmation. 

Users on Twitter noted the lack of fanfare as Mattis departed the Pentagon. 

“Mattis retires today, over policy differences with the president, No ceremony. No honors,” tweeted Defense One executive editor Kevin Baron.

“For comparison, here’s how President Obama said farewell to Chuck Hagel (a Republican) who also left over policy differences,” he wrote in a post linking to the farewell ceremony for former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. 

More: Trump attacks critics of his Syria policy as ‘failed generals,’ says moving ‘slowly’ on pullout

More: Brett McGurk, US envoy to anti-ISIS coalition, quits over Trump’s Syria move, reports say

More: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ exit prompts concern from Europe to Asia

Contributing: The Associated Press

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