ARLINGTON, Va. — One of the last original cabinet members still working in the administration, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that “the beat goes on, things are going fine” when it comes to his future plans.
Mattis gushed to reporters about UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who announced Tuesday that she would be stepping down at the end of the year.
“Oh gosh, she’s been a wonderful — Ambassador Haley has been a wonderful representative for our country and she has been just a tremendous asset to those of us here in the Department of Defense,” he said.
“We have a very close working relationship,” he added. “We saw ourselves in many occasions collaborating together on how we would deal with certain issues, alongside the secretary of State. She’s done yeoman’s work up there, and I would just tell you that she may be moving on but she’s not — she’s not losing our respect one bit. It’s been a good, good team.”
Asked if he was aware before the announcement that Haley was stepping down, the secretary said he didn’t want to get into private conversations.
“The team is doing very well,” Mattis said, adding that he plans to have breakfast Thursday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. “It’s a close relationship. I’m having lunch tomorrow with the president. The beat goes on, things are going fine.”
The Defense chief was also asked if he’s concerned about potential fluctuations in the defense budget depending on how midterm elections go.
“But I think defense spending, defense policy, have been an area of bipartisan — overwhelming bipartisan support,” Mattis said. “Again, it’s somewhere upwards of 83, 85 percent of the House and the Senate voting for our bill this year. Appropriations bill in the Senate, it was 93 percent. Ninety-three senators voted for our bill. It’s just — it’s hard to believe that we don’t have some of the highest levels of bipartisan support that we’ve ever enjoyed.”
“And this, again, was not for a reduced bill or a modest bill. This was the American people making sacrifice, including political sacrifice, for some of those, political penalties for some on the Hill who voted for it with the elections coming up,” he added. “So now I believe that as long as we make a strong statement, a strong argument and we are transparent with the Congress about what we need, I’m confident that we’ll stay well taken care of by our Congress.”