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 TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops MORE for the forced early departure of Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump insulted UK's May, called Germany's Merkel 'stupid' in calls: report Mattis urges people to wear masks in PSA about 'nasty little virus' Dozens of GOP ex-national security officials to form group to back Biden: report 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 SmithHouse panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown MORE (D-Wash.) said in a statement.

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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.