McConnell 'distressed' over reasons for Mattis resignation

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump: Green New Deal 'the most preposterous thing' and 'easy to beat' 2020 Dems avoid this year's AIPAC conference GOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight MORE (R-Ky.) said he was "distressed" by Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief under investigation over Boeing ties | Trump uses visual aids to tout progress against ISIS | Pentagon, Amnesty International spar over civilian drone deaths Pentagon watchdog probing whether acting chief boosted Boeing Overnight Defense: Judge says Trump can't implement transgender policy | Trump floats admitting Brazil to NATO | Mattis returning to Stanford MORE's resignation announcement Thursday.

“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 in a statement. "We must also maintain a clear-eyed understanding of our friends and foes, and recognize that nations like Russia are among the latter." 

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“So I was sorry to learn that Secretary Mattis, who shares those clear principles, will soon depart the administration. 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. 

Thursday's statement is one of McConnell's more critical statements toward Trump since the president's inauguration.

For his resignation, Mattis sent a letter to President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE saying he deserved a secretary "whose views are better aligned with yours."

Mattie's announcement that he will resign in February came a day after the Trump administration announced it would be withdrawing the U.S. military presence from Syria and amid reports that the same may happen in Afghanistan.

Both of those moves have been met with opposition from Pentagon officials and members of the foreign policy establishment.

In his note, Mattis signaled concern with the way the president treated allies in NATO as well as rivals such as China and Russia. 

McConnell finished his statement by asking Trump to consider a replacement whose views align with Mattis's.

“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."