By · Philip Rucker, Dan Lamothe, Josh Dawsey, (c) 2018, The Washington Post, Dec 24, 2018 - President Donald Trump, who aides said has been seething about news coverage of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ pointed resignation letter, abruptly announced Sunday that he was removing Mattis two months before his planned departure and installing Patrick Shanahan as acting defense secretary.
The move brings fresh instability to the Pentagon as it manages Trump’s sudden decisions to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who has been Mattis’ deputy at the Pentagon, will assume the top job on an acting capacity beginning Jan. 1. But a senior administration official said Trump plans to conduct a wide-ranging search for a permanent replacement and is interested in candidates from outside the administration.
Trump decided hastily to remove Mattis in reaction to negative news coverage, according to senior administration officials, one of whom said the president was eager to retaliate against Mattis and show up the widely respected former General.
Trump was so angry with Mattis that on Sunday morning he directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to inform the defense secretary that he was being removed from office two months early.
Mattis resigned in protest after Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria over the strong objections of Mattis and others on the national security team.