General James Mattis, center (Photographer: Jock Fistick/Bloomberg News)

Trump Says He Plans to Keep Mattis as Defense Secretary After Midterms

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he doesn’t plan to oust Defense Secretary James Mattis as part of “customary” staffing changes following the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

“Why would I do that?” Trump told reporters on Monday when asked whether he’d replace Mattis. “Is that the new rumor? No.”

One of Trump’s first cabinet picks after the 2016 election, Mattis has long been seen as a force for stability in foreign policy under a president who prides himself on his unpredictability. The Pentagon secretary found himself on the defensive, however, after he was portrayed as critical of Trump in Bob Woodward’s book “Fear,” published in early September.

Mattis pushed back early in 2018 when Trump questioned the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean peninsula, asking why the U.S. was spending so much, Woodward reported.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Mattis said, according to the book. He went on to tell associates that the president had the understanding of a “fifth or sixth-grader,” according to Woodward. It also quoted the secretary as saying that defense chiefs “don’t always get to choose the president they work for.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.