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Armed Services chairman to Trump: Keep Mattis 'as long as you possibly can'

Armed Services chairman to Trump: Keep Mattis 'as long as you possibly can'
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The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee is urging President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE not to replace Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisProgressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper Talk grows of Trump firings at Pentagon, CIA MORE.

“The president does not ask my advice. If he were to ask my advice, I’d say keep Secretary Mattis there as long as you possibly can,” committee Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses Defense bill moves to formal negotiations with Confederate name fight looming Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' MORE (R-Texas) told reporters.

“I think he’s been –– is –– a great secretary of Defense, who has tremendous credibility on Capitol Hill, around the world. I think he’s done a really great job, and I would do everything I could to keep him there as long as possible.”

Reports have bubbled up in recent weeks that Trump is looking at replacing Mattis after the November midterm elections. Mattis has dismissed such reports about his possible departure.

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"I wouldn't take it seriously at all," Mattis told reporters last week, adding that people should "keep a sense of humor about it."

"Of course I don't think about leaving, I love it here,” Mattis said, joking that he even wants to “getting a little place down on the Potomac” when he does retire.

Mattis and Trump have differed on a number of issues, including whether to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, suspend military exercises in South Korea and ban transgender troops.

Still, Mattis had been largely immune from the public ire from Trump that befell other, now-fired Cabinet officials such as former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonBiden's State Department picks are a diplomatic slam dunk President Trump: To know him is to 'No' him Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts MORE.

Reports about growing animosity between the two and Mattis’s possible exit increased in recent weeks following the publication of a book from journalist Bob Woodward. In the book, Mattis is quoted comparing Trump’s understanding of the situation on the Korean peninsula to that of a “fifth or sixth" grader.

Mattis called Woodward’s reporting “fiction” and Trump praised that denial.

On Tuesday, Thornberry said he had no inside information on Mattis’s fate and instead pointed back to Mattis’s joke about the reports.

“He made some sort of joke about it,” Thornberry said. “He was going to retire on the Potomac or something. I bet he doesn’t. I think he’ll go back to Washington state some day. I hope it’s at the end of the administration.”