Mattis on Tillerson ouster: ‘The job goes on’

Mattis on Tillerson ouster: ‘The job goes on’
© Greg Nash

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisShanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April MORE on Thursday downplayed the importance of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE's decision to fire Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonBolton says Russia, China seeking to promote discord in Trump administration Bolton says Russia, China seeking to promote discord in Trump administration Trump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds MORE this week, telling reporters that most of the world considers the news a "Washington, D.C., story."

In a press briefing reported by The Washington Post, Mattis said he understood reporters' concerns about how U.S. allies would react to the firing of America's top diplomat, but assured journalists that much of the world views the event as having little importance.

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“I understand why you are asking,” Mattis said. “But I’m just pointing out that in most parts of the world, this is a Washington, D.C., story. It’s not about whether the United States is still an ally to the countries I’ve been, or the countries I’ve been talking to. I’ve signed letters while I’ve been out here with the normal coordination. The job goes on.”

Mattis added that mentions of Tillerson's ouster during his recent trip abroad to Bahrain did not “even come up” except from U.S. reporters asking about the decision.

“The durability of our relations with these countries, with the United States having strong institutions, goes beyond personalities,” Mattis said.

Trump fired Tillerson on Tuesday after the secretary returned from a trip to Africa, saying he made the decision "by himself" and didn't speak with Tillerson beforehand.

“I actually got along great with Rex, but really, it was a different mindset,” Trump said from the White House.

In his own statement Tuesday, Tillerson did not thank the president but spoke of the need to ensure an "orderly" transition to his nominated replacement, CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Progressive nonprofits sue White House over missing notes from Putin meeting Progressive nonprofits sue White House over missing notes from Putin meeting MORE.

“I received a call today from the president of the United States a little after noontime from Air Force One, and I’ve also spoken to White House chief of staff [John] Kelly to ensure we have clarity about the days ahead,” Tillerson said.

"What is most important is to ensure an orderly and smooth transition during a time that the country continues to face significant policy and national security challenges," he said.