There are profound civil-military implications in Bob Woodward’s account of how Defense Secretary James Mattis has handled President Donald Trump.
After a discussion of North Korea, "Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — 'a fifth- or sixth-grader.'"
Trump told Mattis in a telephone call to kill Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, in retaliation for using chemical weapons. Mattis concluded the call, then said, “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.”
“At a July 2017 National Security Council meeting, Trump dressed down his generals and other advisers for 25 minutes, complaining that the United States was losing.” (I actually have some sympathy with Trump on this one. I don’t think the military can explain what we are doing in Afghanistan at this point.)
General Kelly on Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
Weirdly, Trump criticized his national security advisor, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, for dressing in cheap suits "like a beer salesman." One reason McMaster dresses as he does is that he has spent his life serving his country, rather than making money. And, to be honest, he is built like a heavyweight boxer, and it is hard to find off-the-rack suits that fit that build.
Not strictly national security, but certainly indicative of a national emergency: Trump’s lawyer told him, “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.” Then he resigned.
What I take away from all this is that Mattis is in a difficult position. Trump is upsetting norms of how presidents behave, some of them dating back to George Washington. In response, Mattis is straining the rules of how a defense secretary and the military treat a president, some of them also dating back to Washington.
My conclusions: We all know that Trump is damaging how the government operates. But there is more damage going on behind the scenes. And it is going to get worse before it is all over.
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.