Mattis: When a President Asks You to Do Something, ‘We All Have an Obligation to Serve’

SecDef says he and Trump disagreed on NATO, torture when they first met

James Mattis / Getty
James Mattis / Getty

Secretary of Defense James Mattis explained Thursday that his continued service in the Trump administration is inspired by a sense of duty to his country and the office of the presidency.

Kevin Baron, executive editor of Defense One and national security analyst for NBC and MSNBC, asked Mattis at an impromptu press gaggle at the Pentagon why he continues to serve, instead of quitting. Mattis made clear his dedication to duty in his response.

"You know, when a president of the United States asks you to do something—I don't think it's an old-fashioned school—I don't think it's old fashioned or anything, I don't care if it's Republican or Democrat, we all have an obligation to serve," he said.

"That's all there is to it. And so, you serve," Mattis added.

He also explained that he did not find working with President Donald Trump disagreeable simply because the two men sometimes disagree.

"First time I met with President Trump, we disagreed on three things in my first 40 minutes with him, on NATO, no torture, and on something else, and he hired me," Mattis said.

"This is not a man who is immune to being persuaded if he thinks you've got an argument," he said.

Baron subsequently explained on Twitter that these were not new ideas from the secretary of defense.

"He's told me this stuff before, just never on record, which is why I asked. No conspiracy, folks," Baron wrote.