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The Journal Gazette

Friday, December 21, 2018 1:00 am

Donnelly says Mattis leaving is 'damaging'

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly said Thursday that the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis is a blow to national security interests.

“The loss of Jim Mattis is an extraordinarily damaging loss to our country and to the safety of our nation,” Donnelly, D-Ind., said in a telephone interview.

He called Mattis “the Rock of Gibraltar times ten.”

“I have worked closely with him. He is an extraordinary patriot, was a tremendous secretary of defense,” said Donnelly, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Mattis announced his pending resignation a day after President Donald Trump said he will withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

Donnelly said Mattis' resignation letter showed “that he does not agree with the president's decision regarding Syria.”

Neither does Donnelly, who is in his last weeks as a senator after losing the Nov. 6 election to Republican Mike Braun.

“I think that the Syrian action is a grave mistake,” Donnelly said about pulling troops. “The action that the president is advocating is incredibly dangerous, not only for our country but for Israel. It gives a free hand to Iran. It gives a free hand to Russia and endangers our allies who have worked alongside us in Syria.”

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said in a statement that Mattis “has served our country with extraordinary courage, integrity, and self-sacrifice.”

“As the consummate warrior-scholar, he has always put duty to our country and the Constitution first, and the American people are safer because of his service. As Secretary of Defense, he has focused on restoring the readiness and lethality of our armed forces and enhancing the alliances that are so vital to American national security,” said Young, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that Mattis “is a true American hero who has served this president and our country with distinction. We thank him for his incredible sacrifices. I am confident President Trump will choose a replacement who will build on the progress made under General Mattis.”