The incoming House Armed Services Committee Chairman on Wednesday blasted President Donald Trump over his decision to remove Defense Secretary Jim Mattis from his post earlier than originally planned, saying it “unnecessarily places the United States in a riskier position.”
“It is a mistake for President Trump to deny the country an opportunity to have a stable transition to a new Secretary of Defense in this fashion,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said in a statement.
“We face too many challenges and too complex a threat environment to add to our risk by leaving the country without an experienced national security leader in the seat.”
Smith, the ranking member on HASC, is expected to take over as chairman from Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) in the next Congress.
Trump announced on Sunday that he would remove Mattis and replace him with his deputy, Patrick Shanahan, instead of allowing a successor to be confirmed and Mattis to conduct a proper transition over a two-month period.
Trump initially said Mattis would be retiring “with distinction” at the end of February, but he became angry over the news coverage of Mattis’ resignation letter, in which he rebuked Trump’s foreign policy views, according to The New York Times.
Mattis is not the only person in Trump’s orbit to leave in the new year. Also out on Jan. 1 is Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
You can read Smith’s full statement below:
“It is a mistake for President Trump to deny the country an opportunity to have a stable transition to a new Secretary of Defense in this fashion. I believe Deputy Secretary Shanahan will be able to successfully serve as acting Secretary of Defense. His expertise in management, research and development, acquisition, and procurement are valuable and conducive to the operations of the Pentagon. However, he does not have the comprehensive understanding of global national security threats that Secretary Mattis does. Throwing him into the role of acting secretary with no notice in this way unnecessarily places the United States in a riskier position.
“And why must Secretary Mattis leave early? The President has no given no reason why Mattis can’t stay until the end of February as he planned. We face too many challenges and too complex a threat environment to add to our risk by leaving the country without an experienced national security leader in the seat.”