Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who often avoids publicly criticizing President Donald Trump, issued a pointed statement Thursday night in response to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis, calling on the US to promote a worldview more in line with the departing defense secretary’s than the President’s.
“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,” McConnell said. “We must also maintain a clear-eyed understanding of our friends and foes, and recognize that nations like Russia are among the latter.”
The Kentucky Republican said he was “sorry to learn” that Mattis would be leaving the administration in late February.
“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,” McConnell said. “It is regrettable that the president must now choose a new Secretary of Defense,” McConnell wrote. “But I urge him to select a leader who shares Secretary Mattis’s understanding of these vital principles and his total commitment to America’s servicemembers.”
Although other Republican lawmakers publicly expressed concern Thursday over Mattis’ resignation, McConnell chooses his words very carefully and is almost always reluctant to publicly engage when Trump makes a controversial statement or action. His statement could be seen as a sign of his displeasure over Trump’s foreign policy, particularly on Syria and NATO.
A retired Marine general, Mattis resigned Thursday on the heels of Trump’s plans to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, citing irreconcilable policy differences.
CNN’s Ted Barrett, Manu Raju and Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.