McConnell 'distressed' over reasons for Mattis resignation

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellEXCLUSIVE: Trump on reparations: 'I don't see it happening' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns MORE (R-Ky.) said he was "distressed" by Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisNew Defense chief: Our 'priorities remain unchanged' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Iran with new sanctions Trump urged to quickly fill Pentagon post amid Iran tensions 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 TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question 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."