There has been an exodus of generals from the Trump administration.
On Monday, outgoing Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, a retired four-star general, sent a formal farewell message to the Pentagon. His departure comes just days after he announced his resignation, reportedly over Trump’s snap decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. With news over the weekend that Trump’s outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly defended his tumultuous tenure in an exit interview by highlighting all of the things he convinced Trump not to do, as well as reports that other former top military brass want no part of this administration, it appears the president has a generals problem.
Back in his 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump made it clear that he believed himself to be more knowledgeable than the military’s leadership. “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me,” he bragged in November 2015. “They don’t know much because they’re not winning,” he reiterated in June 2016.
So it came as something of a surprise when he loaded his administration with the people he had insulted, naming Michael Flynn his first national security adviser, H.R. McMaster his second national security adviser, Mattis his first Secretary of Defense, and Kelly his first Secretary of Homeland Security and later his second chief of staff. His first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, also appointed Mark Inch to lead the Federal Bureau of Prison. None of those individuals remain.
As Trump searches for a new Secretary of Defense, prominent generals have been explicit that they would not serve in the administration. Fox News regular Jack Keane, a retired four-star general, reportedly has no interest in the Defense Secretary job and publicly eviscerated Trump’s Syria pullout as a “serious strategic mistake” that will “have dire consequences.”
Others have stated in recent days that they do not think much of Trump.
Stanley McChrystal, a retired four-star general, in an ABC interview on Sunday, said he would never work in the Trump administration and warned other would-be Trump administration applicants that Trump is “immoral” and does not tell the truth.
David Petraeus, who Trump praised as very impressive even after he resigned as CIA director in 2012 and later pleaded guilty to sharing classified information with a biographer with whom he was having an extramarital affair, also said on Monday that he would not join a Trump administration. Asked if he was interested in replacing Mattis, Petraeus told BBC Radio Four that, like Mattis, he too disagreed with Trump’s general policy views, saying “I think there does have to be policy alignment [with Trump,] and I’m not sure that exists, I’m afraid.”