Mattis: 'I'll speak out' about policy issues 'when the time comes'

Mattis: 'I'll speak out' about policy issues 'when the time comes'

Former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisUS leaves dozens of 'high value' ISIS detainees behind amid Syria retreat: report White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback Sunday shows — Officials rush to Trump's defense on Syria, sanctions MORE said Tuesday he will speak out about the Trump administration’s defense policy and strategy “when the time’s right.”

“There will come a time when I speak out on strategic issues, policy issues, that I do not have a question about, but I need to give some period of time to those that have to carry out the responsibilities to protect this country in a very, very difficult age,” Mattis said at a Council on Foreign Relations event in New York.

“When the time comes — I’ll know it when it’s right, I can’t tell you; I can’t tell myself, I’m not keeping a secret — when the time’s right to speak out about policy and strategy, I’ll speak out,” Mattis said in the discussion of his forthcoming book, “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead.”

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Mattis, who began promoting the book last week in his first extensive remarks since leaving office, has not criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report MORE by name since he resigned as Defense secretary in December, shortly after Trump announced plans to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria. Mattis has, however, written implicit criticisms of Trump over his decisions, particularly regarding U.S. allies.

In his resignation letter to the president, which was included in the book, Mattis stressed their differences on the importance of help from other nations.

On Tuesday, Mattis said that he would hold off on any criticisms as he doesn’t believe that if you leave an administration over a matter of policy, “that you then get out and start talking. ... I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

“We’ve got a president and a secretary of State and a secretary of Defense trying to protect this great big experiment that you and I call America, and I’m not going make their job more difficult by a former secretary of Defense speaking now, from what I would call the cheap seats, not responsible for anything,” he said.

Mattis’s book, released on Tuesday, is not a tell-all of his service in the administration. Rather, it lays out stories and lessons learned from his years of experience in the U.S. military.

He explained that he did not include much on his time working with Trump because the book was never intended to be about his role as secretary of Defense and that he had agreed to write it years before he was even formally nominated for the position.

“I signed the contract to write the book in 2013, we were on version five in 2017 and, we thought, ready to roll it out when I had to put it on hold,” Mattis said. “It was never about an unanticipated job as secretary of Defense.”

He added that he has full confidence in the American people to discern “the political associations, the political qualifications of people.”

“I’ve got a lot of trust in the American people, I don’t lose sleep over the American people,” Mattis said.