Former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisFormer Defense Secretary Mattis testifies in Theranos CEO trial 20 years after 9/11, we've logged successes but the fight continues Defense & National Security — The mental scars of Afghanistan MORE told then-Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race Cyber preparedness could save America's 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' MORE that President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE was “dangerous” and “unfit,” according to excerpts from Bob Woodward’s upcoming book “Rage.”
Mattis, who left the White House at the end of 2018 over differences on defense strategy with the president, warned Coats that “there may come a time when we have to take collective action” against Trump, according to excerpts of the Woodward book reported upon by The Washington Post,
The Post did not say if Woodward’s book clarified what kind of “collective action” Mattis was referencing.
In a separate conversation, Mattis said, “The president has no moral compass,” to which Coats responded, “True. To him, a lie is not a lie. It’s just what he thinks. He doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie.”
Mattis, one of the few Cabinet secretaries who had support from both Republicans and Democrats during his time in the Trump administration, announced in December 2018 he was resigning after disagreements with the president over policies in Syria and Europe.
He has generally kept his thoughts about Trump to himself, but criticized the president as dividing the country over the summer after Trump said he wanted to use the military against protesters following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The former Pentagon chief, initially seen as someone who might serve as a check on Trump, was believed to have disagreed with Trump’s decision to draw down troops in Syria and his relationship with NATO allies, which have been characterized by demands they step up contributions to their shared defense.
Mattis wrote in his resignation letter that his “core belief” is that U.S. strength is “inextricably linked with the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.”
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis wrote. “We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.”
Woodward also described Coats as particularly disturbed during his time in the Trump administration, which ended in August 2019. Coats, a former Indiana senator, was brought into the administration by Vice President Pence, the Hoosier State’s former governor.
Marsha Coats, Dan Coats’s wife, recounted a conversation she had with Pence in which he urged her to “stay the course.”
“I just looked at him, like, how are you stomaching this?” she said, according to Woodward. “I just looked at him like, this is horrible. I mean, we made eye contact. I think he understood. And he just whispered in my ear, ‘Stay the course.’ ”