October 27, 2018
Long before President Trump declared that his defense secretary, whom he had previously praised as “the real deal”, was actually “kind of a Democrat”, National Security Advisor John Bolton and his deputy, Mira Ricardel, had launched a “whisper campaign” within the West Wing to try to oust the longtime general, eventually succeeding in cutting him out of presidential briefings due to the view that Mattis wasn’t “ideologically aligned” with the administration, according to Foreign Policy.
According to two anonymous West Wing sources, Bolton and Ricardel are “trying to build a sense that [Mattis] is done for.” “They have their knives out,” one official added. However, the campaign to oust Mattis has been met with resistance by lawmakers and some inside the administration, who believe Mattis is one of the few members of Trump’s cabinet who enjoys genuine bipartisan respect and support.
Bolton has successfully managed to cut down on the number of National Security Council meetings, ensuring that he is the closest to Trump on issues involving national security – where Bolton is known for his fervent interventionism and continued support of the Iraq war. Though one source aligned with Bolton said the idea that the NSC isn’t meeting regularly enough is “100% Mattis spin.”
One Trump administration official noted, “Mira and Bolton are the only ones who benefit if Secretary Mattis leaves.” The secretary is “highly regarded” within the cabinet and by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the official said.
The question of Mattis’s departure is closely watched in Washington, in part because he’s viewed as an experienced professional with a steady hand in an administration often plagued by turmoil. In countries that have had disputes with the Trump administration – on Iran or NATO, for example – knowing that Mattis…