President Donald Trump wanted to withdraw all American troops from the Korean Peninsula earlier this year but White House Chief of Staff John Kelly talked him out of it, NBC News reports.
Two White House officials told NBC that Trump and Kelly had a "heated exchange" after the president proposed pulling all U.S. troops out of South Korea on the eve of February's Winter Olympics.
The officials claimed "Kelly strongly — and successfully — dissuaded Trump from ordering the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula," according to NBC News.
Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general who has served as chief of staff since July 2017, "portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe, curbing the erratic urges of a president who has a questionable grasp on policy issues and functions of the government," current and former White House officials told NBC News.
NBC News also reports that "Trump and Kelly seem to have tired of each other," and that some current and former White House officials expect the chief of staff to step down by July. Kelly has also been quoted calling the president "an idiot."
Last August, the Associated Press reported that Kelly and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, also a retired Marine general, "agreed in the earliest weeks of Trump's presidency that one of the should remain in the United States at all times to keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging from the White House."
Approximately 30,000 American troops are currently stationed in South Korea, most along the border with North Korea. Trump has expressed his desire to end the U.S. military mission on the Peninsula before.
The Washington Post reported in March that the president "seemed to threaten to pull U.S. troops stationed in South Korea if he didn't get what he wanted on trade with Seoul" during a fundraising event in Missouri.
"We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military," Trump said at the event. "We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea. Let's see what happens."
Tensions on the Peninsula appear to be thawing. On Friday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in person for the first time. Many credit Trump with persuading Pyongyang to come to the negotiating table.
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An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)
The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.
On Monday, Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans received a suspended sentence of 60 days in jail, said Samantha Dooies, an assistant to the New Hanover County District Attorney.
Evans must complete 18 months of unsupervised probation, pay $8,000 in restitution, complete a domestic violence offenders program, and he cannot have any contact with his former girlfriend, Dooies told Task & Purpose. The special operations Marine is also only allowed to have access to firearms though the military while on base or deployed.