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"Sad day": Republicans react to Mattis quitting Trump administration

James Mattis leaving the podium at the Pentagon
James Mattis leaving a podium at the Pentagon. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Just on the heels of President Trump's announcement that he would be pulling troops out of Syria, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation from the Trump administration, effective at the end of February.

Why it matters: Though Trump described Mattis' departure as a retirement, Mattis painted a picture of dissenting opinion in his resignation letter, saying he was "not aligned" with the president on key decisions. Key Republican officials are reacting to the news with reverence for Mattis and hope for the future.

What they're saying

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): "General Mattis is a combination of intellect and integrity. He has been in the fight against radical Islam for decades and provided sound and ethical military advice to President Trump."
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.): "I believe it's essential that the United States maintain and strengthen the post-World War II alliances that have been carefully built by leaders in both parties. We must also maintain a clear-eyed understanding of our friends and foes, and recognize that nations like Russia are among the latter. So I was sorry to learn that Secretary Mattis, who share these clear principles, will soon depart this administration. But I am particularly distressed that he is resigning due to sharp differences with the president on these and other key aspects of America's global leadership."
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan: "The House is indebted to Secretary Mattis for his service. With our country’s defense in his hands, we have become a safer America at home, and a more commanding force abroad. His patriotism and grit are matched only by his humility and graciousness."
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): "Just read Gen. Mattis resignation letter. It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances and empower our adversaries."
  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.): "This is a sad day. General Mattis was giving advice POTUS needs to hear. Mattis rightly believes that Russia [and] China are adversaries, and that we are at war with jihadists across the globe who plot to kill Americans. Isolationism is a weak strategy that will harm Americans."
  • Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) "Secretary Mattis served his country with honor. His resignation is a loss to our country’s leadership."

Go deeper: Read Mattis' resignation letter