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 early 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.

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

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.

— Reporting contributed by CBS News' David Martin

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.

How a former CIA officer was caught betraying his country

The officials who investigated and convicted Kevin Mallory for conspiracy to commit espionage tell 60 Minutes how their case came together

Dec 23

Inside the corruption allegations plaguing Malta

The smallest nation in the European Union is earning an unsavory reputation, with a series of scandals involving allegations of bribery, cronyism and money laundering

Dec 23

The lawsuits that could bankrupt the opioid industry

The attorney behind a multibillion-dollar tobacco settlement in 1998 has turned his attention to the opioid epidemic. And he wants drug companies to pay

Dec 17

Cleaning up the plastic in the ocean

Discarded plastic is piling up around the world and pooling in the ocean. Sharyn Alfonsi reports on the problem's deadly consequences for wildlife and what can be done to stop it

Dec 16

Tesla CEO Elon Musk: The "60 Minutes" interview

Musk opens up to Lesley Stahl about Twitter, pot, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Model 3 and Tesla

Dec 9

Study examines effects of screen time on kids

"60 Minutes" goes inside a landmark government study of young minds to see if phones, tablets and other screens are impacting adolescent brain development

Dec 10

Ryan Speedo Green: From juvenile delinquency to opera stardom

After a childhood of anger and violence, the 32-year-old now commands the stage around the world

Dec 9

Remembering President George H.W. Bush

Former presidents and others look back on the life of President George H.W. Bush, who passed away Friday

Dec 2

Right Rail – Video Promo – Listing

New Year's Eve security in Times Square

It's New Year's Eve, and billions of people around the world plan to ring in 2019 tonight. In New York City, more than one million people are expected to pack into Times Square. Roughly 7,000 NYPD officers and heavily armed counter-terrorism teams will be standing by to keep them safe. For the first time, an NYPD drone will be part of their aerial arsenal. Tony Dokoupil reports.

4H ago 03:23

How a big crowd makes Paul McCartney feel

What song made the former Beatle unexpectedly emotional?

17H ago 01:10

Blame game continues on government shutdown

Eight-hundred-thousand federal workers could miss their first paychecks of the New Year this week. The partial government shutdown is now 10 days old, and President Trump says it won't end unless Democrats agree to fund his border wall. The Democrats say no. Chip Reid reports.

4H ago 02:43

Lion escapes, kills conservatory intern

Investigators want to know how a lion escaped from an enclosure before killing an intern at a wildlife conservatory in North Carolina. Alexandra Black, 22, was helping clean out the big cat's quarters Sunday when she was attacked. Janet Shamlian reports.

4H ago 02:27

Missing Colorado woman's fiancé in court

A Colorado man suspected of killing the mother of his 1-year-old daughter is due to be arraigned Monday. Patrick Frazee is accused of first-degree murder. He is being held without bail. His fiancée, Kelsey Berreth, vanished on Thanksgiving Day. Nikki Battiste reports.

4H ago 02:48

Quoting Lincoln, Mattis signs off as secretary of defense

Defense Secretary James Mattis hands the reins over to Patrick Shanahan

updated 19M ago

Sheriff describes frantic effort to reach young woman killed by lion

Alexandra Black was a recent college graduate who had worked at the center for about two weeks

updated 32M ago

Report: China completes antenna 5 times the size of NYC

The Wireless Electromagnetic Method project was built on a site nearly five times the size of New York City

updated 38M ago

New Year's Eve around the world

Revelers around the world say hello to 2019, goodbye to an unsettling year

updated 32M ago

Times Square New Year's Eve preparations

According to the NYPD, more than a million people are expected to come to Time's Square for New Year's Eve. CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil joins CBSN to talk more about how authorities are preparing for the crowds.

updated 0M ago 06:32

Government shutdown closes immigration courts adding to record backlog

"There's no question: the longer it goes the worse it gets. If they don't resolve it by next week it's going to be a huge problem."

updated 57M ago

Biggest stories of 2018, ranked

This year was a doozy. These were the top stories on CBSNews.com

Dec 6 55 photos

Notable deaths in 2018

A look back at the esteemed personalities who've left us this year, who touched us with their innovation, creativity and humanity

Dec 27 140 photos

Yemen's humanitarian crisis

The nation's civil war has claimed at least 10,000 lives, and generated the world's worst humanitarian crisis

Dec 17 24 photos

The timeless photojournalism of Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington

"War and Peace in Liberia" is a new exhibition in New York City celebrating the work of two acclaimed war photographers, who were both killed in conflict zones

Dec 9 15 photos

2018 additions to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry

"The Shining," "Jurassic Park," "My Fair Lady" and "Brokeback Mountain" are among the classic films to be preserved for future generations by the Library of Congress

Dec 12 27 photos

Quoting Lincoln, Mattis signs off as secretary of defense

Defense Secretary James Mattis hands the reins over to Patrick Shanahan

updated 19M ago

Sheriff describes frantic effort to reach young woman killed by lion

Alexandra Black was a recent college graduate who had worked at the center for about two weeks

updated 32M ago

Report: China completes antenna 5 times the size of NYC

The Wireless Electromagnetic Method project was built on a site nearly five times the size of New York City

updated 38M ago

New Year's Eve around the world

Revelers around the world say hello to 2019, goodbye to an unsettling year

updated 32M ago

Government shutdown closes immigration courts adding to record backlog

"There's no question: the longer it goes the worse it gets. If they don't resolve it by next week it's going to be a huge problem."

updated 57M ago