Top House Armed Services Dem: Mattis's early exit leaves country 'in a riskier position'

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday bashed President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE for the forced early departure of Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon reporters left in dark as Iran tensions escalate Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences MORE, saying that it puts the country “in a riskier position.”

“We face too many challenges and too complex a threat environment to add to our risk by leaving the country without an experienced national security leader in the seat,” Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithTrump officials say US efforts to deter Iran have worked Let's talk about education and school choice in 2020 Overnight Defense: Lawmakers on edge over Iran tensions | Questions rise after State pulls personnel from Iraq | Senators demand briefing | House panel advances 0B Pentagon spending bill | Warren offers plan on climate threats to military MORE (D-Wash.) said in a statement.


Trump on Sunday announced he is removing Mattis, who resigned last Thursday, two months earlier than his scheduled departure at the end of February. The president said Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan would serve as acting secretary beginning Jan. 1.

Smith called the hasty transition a mistake by Trump, and he called for an explanation as to why Mattis must leave early.

“The President has no given no reason why Mattis can’t stay until the end of February as he planned,” he wrote.

While Smith believes Shanahan will be able to successfully serve as acting Defense Secretary — with management expertise “valuable and conducive to the operations of the Pentagon” — the lawmaker doubts his long-term abilities as Pentagon chief.

“He does not have the comprehensive understanding of global national security threats that Secretary Mattis does. Throwing him into the role of acting secretary with no notice in this way unnecessarily places the United States in a riskier position,” Smith warns.

Mattis announced his resignation after the White House's announcement that it planned to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria — a move the defense chief strongly opposes.

In his resignation letter, Mattis said his world views did not “align” with Trump’s and that he would depart at the end of February.

He added that “over four decades” of experience has taught him the value of alliances such as NATO and the anti-ISIS coalition and of standing strong against adversaries such as China and Russia. 

After days of growing increasingly angry over the letter, Trump on Sunday announced he was pushing Mattis out early.