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Trump denies reports he's weighing Mattis replacement

Trump denies reports he's weighing Mattis replacement
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoaquín Castro: Trump would be 'in court right now' if he weren't the president or 'privileged' Trump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Comey reveals new details on Russia probe during House testimony MORE on Wednesday denied reports that he is looking to replace Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump attends Army-Navy game Overnight Defense: Senate Armed Services chair eyes Russia, China threats | Pushes Trump not to cut defense budget | Mattis says US looking for more Khashoggi evidence Mattis: Investigation into killing of Khashoggi is ongoing MORE, telling reporters that he is “very happy” with the Pentagon chief.

Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin wrote in an article released earlier Wednesday that the administration has been considering possible replacements for Mattis for weeks. He added that no decisions have been made, though White House officials expect that Mattis will leave his position in the coming months.

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Asked if there was any truth to the Post report, Trump pointed to the Defense secretary’s statement released the day prior.

“He just made the nicest quote about me I think I've ever had. In fact, [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch [McConnell] has never said anything so nice about me,” Trump said of the Kentucky Republican.

Asked if Mattis will stay in the job, Trump replied, “Yeah. He'll stay ... we're very happy with him, we're having a lot of victories, we're having victories that people don't even know about, and he's highly respected all over the world.”

Bob Woodward's forthcoming book about the Trump White House names Mattis as having told staffers that Trump had the understanding of a "fifth- or sixth-grader" following a meeting to discuss Korea strategy earlier this year.

Mattis released a statement Tuesday night denying that he ever said or heard the quotes attributed to him in the book.

“While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility," Mattis said in a statement.

Trump once again called Woodward’s book “a total piece of fiction” on Wednesday and said Mattis “was totally, not even misquoted, he never made the statement.”

“He came out with the statement that, honestly I've heard over the years that Gen. Mattis is an intellect, and when I read his statement, I asked him whether or not this was true. He said 'not only is it not true, I'd like to write a statement.' And I said 'Thank you very much, that's very kind.' He wrote the most beautiful statement. No. I think he's a terrific person. He's doing a fantastic job as secretary.”

“And I did appreciate his statement,” Trump added. “He didn't have to write that statement. But I did appreciate it, and I appreciated the statement of [chief of staff] John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, and I appreciated the statement of many others.”