Quoting Lincoln, Mattis signs off as secretary of defense

By Kathryn Watson

/ CBS News

Trump forces Mattis out

Defense Secretary James Mattis is signing off at midnight Monday, as he hands the reins over to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. Mattis is leaving his post earlier than first announced, after Mr. Trump moved up his departure date.

Mattis had opposed a quick withdrawal from Syria, and his resignation letter stirred concern about national security even among the president's staunchest allies, like Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. Mattis' replacement is a former defense contractor with no military experience.

The announcement that Mattis would leave the administration — followed by a string of other top departures — took Washington by surprise earlier this month. In his resignation letter, Mattis cited differences with the president, in what many interpreted as a stern rebuke from a quiet and reserved retired Marine general who avoided the spotlight.

"You have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours," Mattis wrote in his resignation letter.

Here is what Mattis wrote to the Pentagon in his farewell letter, obtained by CBS News correspondent David Martin:

— Reporting contributed by CBS News' David Martin

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First published on December 31, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Kathryn Watson

Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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