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'Jaw-dropping': Mattis resignation puts US in 'uncharted territory'

Lawmakers and journalists express shock at tone of James Mattis's resignation letter
In his resignation letter, Mattis said he was stepping down to allow Trump to pick someone whose views align more closely with his own (AFP)

Republican and Democratic lawmakers and journalists expressed bewilderment on Thursday night at the tone of US Secretary of Defence James Mattis’s resignation letter.

In his letter, Mattis said he was stepping down to allow President Donald Trump to have a defence chief whose views align more closely with his own, especially as it relates to NATO, cooperation with US allies, and standing up to Russia and China.

"Because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position," the letter reads.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican who has previously expressed support for Trump, said the defense secretary’s resignation “makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors”.

Nancy Pelosi, the incoming House Majority leader, said she was “shaken” by Mattis’s “beautiful letter”.

"I am shaken by the resignation of General Mattis, for what it means to our country, for the message it sends to our troops and for the indication of what his view is of the commander-in-chief," Pelosi told reporters.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, said Mattis’s letter was “jaw-dropping”, “extraordinary”, and that Trump is “plunging US national security policy into crisis”.

Ezra Klein, the founder of the outlet Vox, said on Twitter: “Trump's highest-profile appointee is torching him on the way out. I've never seen anything like it.”

Al Jazeera anchor and Intercept columnist Mehdi Hassan mocked the resignation, saying he didn’t step down over the white supremacy attack in Charlottesville or family separations, but that Mattis’s final straw was “over the withdrawal of US forces from an unauthorized war”.

“To quote his soon-to-be former boss: ‘Sad!’,” he added on Twitter.

In a Washington Post column published on Thursday, MSNBC commentator Jennifer Rubin said Mattis’s resignation puts the US “in uncharted territory, made more precarious by Republicans’ cowardice”.

“The departure of the last ‘adult in the room’ at a time when Trump is increasingly isolated, irrational and erratic will rightly frighten lawmakers and allies,” Rubin added.

Trump thanked Mattis for his service on Thursday and praised him for making a contribution to his administration.

“General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my administration as secretary of defense for the past two years,” the president said on Twitter.

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