President Donald Trump hinted that US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis may be planning to quit his administration, and described the former U.S. Marine Corps general as "sort of a Democrat". "And I have other people that I'm beyond thrilled with", the president said, according to a transcript provided by CBS.
"It could be that he is".
When asked by CBS' Leslie Stahl whether Mattis might leave, Trump said "Well, I don't know. On the other hand, she represents a discourse which is very selectively concerned about certain things, which lets him get away with certain things". That the President's vanishingly rare appearance on a nonpartisan news program had resulted in a spectacle in which randomly assorted questions were bulldozed by a man eager to speak, and in which the interviewer generally left the viewers to decide what those answers meant without the benefit of meaningful follow-up, made the point clear.
Mr Mattis, seen as one of the steadiest but also more independent members of Trump's cabinet, has served as a low-profile counterweight to the president in his often abrasive treatment of USA allies. He also dubbed the nearly daily media reports detailing "chaos" within the White House as "fake news".
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Trump said, "OK. That's just a figure of speech". "Many people had a problem, though, with the fact that she was interrupting him a good bit".
"We're looking at a lot of different things having to do with illegal immigration", he said. "They'll come into the administration, they'll be phenomenal", Mr Trump said. Lesley, they treat me worse. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these com (panies) - I don't want to hurt jobs.
"Thank you, President Trump".
"By and large on most national security matters Mattis isn't far off base from where the president is", he said.
Trump, not for the first time, suggested he doesn't like the idea of sanctioning or scaling back an arms deal with Saudi Arabia for Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and alleged murder, if indeed the Saudis were responsible. I - I - I like - I get along with him, okay? "I would put my money on General Mattis every day of the week and twice on Sunday, in terms of knowing more about military policy, theory, and doctrine". "In the meantime, I'm president - and you're not".
STAHL: Are you willing to get rid of that Western alliance? I'm not a baby.