SPECIAL REPORT: Trump announces Secretary of Defense James Mattis to retire

In his resignation letter, Mattis said he was leaving his post so the president could have a Defense secretary whose views were "better aligned" with his own.
7:18 | 12/21/18

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Transcript for SPECIAL REPORT: Trump announces Secretary of Defense James Mattis to retire
This is an ABC news special. Now reports. Jaded New York. Good evening I'm David Muir overcoming on the air with breaking news president trump just moments ago revealing Defense Secretary James Mattis is retiring he will be leaving his post in February. The president says a new secretary will be named shortly thereafter. The news coming just 24 hours after president trump abruptly announced withdrawal be US troops from Syria president trump tweeting just a short time ago quote. General Jim Mattis will be retiring with distinction. At the end of February after having served my administration as secretary of defense for the past two years during james' tenure tremendous progress has been made especially with respect. To the purchase of new fighting equipment general Mattis was a great help to mean getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations in new secretary of defense. Will be named shortly I greatly think Jim. For his service let's bring in our chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz with a site Martha you and I were on the air last night here. Talking about the president's erupt announcement that he's pulling US troops out of Syria. But essentially the war against ice is had been one according to the president and how much of a role do you think this is playing in general Mattis and his decision to retire. I certainly don't think it's a cool whip I think it is that not a coincidence that general Mattis has announced his retirement today his resignation today. Right after yesterday's announcement that we would be pulling troops out of Syria this is something that. Secretary Mattis did not want to do did not support. He was very firmly. In the belief that we needed to leave troops there. You also have to remember David that secretary Matta said he would stay as long as the president wanted him to stay. As long as he felt he had influence with the president I was talking to someone very close to. Secretary Mattis yesterday who said that perhaps secretary Mattis on principal alone. Would feel this was time to go. But I think you'll want to bring in Terry Moran at the White House because Terry there was little notice that this was coming until the tweet from the president just a short time ago saying that. Secretary Mattis would be out in February he would be retiring that a new. Defense Secretary would be named shortly thereafter. That's right end and this isn't consistent with the president's determination. To take all the foreign policy as Mike as Martha was just talking about. He ran as a different kind of Republican not a bush Republican he is said you know no more wars he said he has been on this for years he's not talking about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. And for Jim Mattis who had dedicated his life to a certain view of American power in the world. This might have been too much they've been parting ways. Clearly on policy and even personally over the past few months when Mattis was appointed secretary of defense. Trump probably you presented them as one of my general mad dog he can he called Mattis and a nickname that general Mattis did not like. But they have departed company but this is consistent with them will campaign. That Donald Trump one and the political. Views that he has the DS has been fighting to many wars overseas this is all part of his America first policy. That apparently general Mattis has decided he is and contribute to as much as he can. At the Department of Defense. Terry don't need me to tell you there were many and Capitol Hill who saw this decision from the president in the last 24 hours a somewhat of a rebuke to the Defense Secretary who had made it clear. That he believed that this. Counterterrorism mission in Syria particularly against crisis was not over Terri will be seeing you shortly on world news tonight in the meantime if you want to bring in George Stephanopoulos because George. We have this letter of resignation here in front of mr. Mattis riding to the president I know your poring over it to. A but he does say the very end I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve this nation our men and women in uniform. But he lays out the case as to why he wants to retire come February. Very clear he saying that he has strongly that we met in respecting our allies working closely with our allies. And flamingo strongly. And and being resolute. And that the quote and on MP unit in our approach to those. Country's strategic interest are increasingly intention would hours. It clear that China and Russia for example what Teixeira won't let them with their authoritarian. Model. But I don't veto authority over every other nation economic status and security decisions so he's not sugar coating that at all David thing in the end the president deserves testament has more in line with his own views. On these issues and it's Boccieri and market suggested this relationship has been unraveling. Remind the president went around general medical the issue transgender. In the military he's been hey he's been at odds with the president on this issue here on the potential withdrawal correct and it can. As well the president went so far just a few weeks ago in a televised interview called general mad at Democrats which in the present you with a debt. If their parents there's been very clear that even though I general matter to serve the president. At the present that are currently. That this relationship has been prayed. Over several issues over several and you can even look all that the book by Bob Woodward and Michael wall. They reinforce that as well look I'm behind the team. On the epithet the general Mattis who say two could say in May meeting after after meeting with the president. He denied that at the time but it is very clear right now that we're not gonna hide these differences in approach. Tension in this relationship from the very start as George points out the George we should bring up the fact that there were many Republicans on the hill. Republican senators who in the last 24 hours came out and said this move to get out of Syria to with roll US forces and quickly. Was a dangerous move if it shouldn't be done. Led by the president's newest and strongest ally in the senate Lindsey Graham. Who has been defending the president so many issues including on the rest investigation. Of late that he didn't high. IPhone is his feelings about this that it was something that President Obama did it we would all be going crazy and rightfully. Yet the president taking so much opposition here. One of the big questions now will be who will he find should can he find to replace general matter and I asked at the Pentagon what those hearings will delight over issues. Like Syria and Afghanistan and I think it should also be pointed out even if you know look the president does not have the original. Secretary of station will not have interracial secretary of defense he's gone through a national security advised to run as we've talked about he now heading toward his third cheapest gas dispute unprecedented. Turnover at the top rank who govern. Major turmoil inside the trump administration as George points out significant turnover and for those who have been critical of president Trump's foreign policy along the way there were many who believe that as long as general Jim Mattis was in charge of the Pentagon. They felt more comfortable about the direction of foreign policy in this country a major headline. A breaking late this afternoon general Jim Mattis will be retiring as Defense Secretary come February. President from revealing this in a tweet saying they will name a new secretary shortly there after. Are things to George Terry and Martha we'll have team coverage on this coming up shortly on world news tonight. I'm David new world seemed. This has been a special report from BBC.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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