Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks to the press outside of the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on August 7, 2018. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Defense Secretary James Mattis has responded to claims in Bob Woodward's upcoming book saying the allegations "were never uttered by me or in my presence... the idea that I would show contempt... or tolerate disrespect to the office of the President from within our Department of Defense, is a product of someone's rich imagination."

Woodward recounts that after Trump left a meeting with Secretary Mattis on North Korea, "Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — 'a fifth- or sixth-grader.'"

"The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward's book were never uttered by me or in my presence. While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility.
"While responsible policy making in the real world is inherently messy, it is also essential that we challenge every assumption to find the best option. I embrace such debate and the open competition of ideas. In just over a year, these robust discussions and deliberations have yielded significant results, including the near annihilation of the ISIS caliphate, unprecedented burden sharing by our NATO allies, the repatriation of U.S. service member remains from North Korea, and the improved readiness of our armed forces. Our defense policies have also enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress.
"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."
— Secretary Mattis, provided by the Department of Defense

Go deeper: Bob Woodward: Trump's top staff trashed him in private

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