White House adviser Stephen Miller clashed with CNN host Wolf Blitzer in a long interview over Secretary of Defense James Mattis' resignation, a U.S. withdrawal from Syria, and immigration policy.
The interview began with Blitzer asking about Mattis' abrupt resignation on Thursday and the disagreements between the defense secretary and President Donald Trump. Mattis met with Trump Thursday afternoon to try and convince him to reverse his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, according to reports. Trump refused and Mattis notified Trump of his resignation. In his letter, Mattis noted how Trump has the right to have a secretary of defense that is more closely aligned with his views and listed numerous issues that he disagreed with the administration on.
Miller told Blitzer that Mattis served with honor before he changed to the administration's talking points.
"He and the president had a great relationship. Secretary Mattis served our country with honor and distinction. At the same time, you know, President Trump believes that many immensely wealthy countries are taking advantage of the United States. They are taking advantage of our dollars and money and have been for a long time. We protect these wealthy countries. the president has been emphatic about the need to get a fair deal for the American taxpayer and make sure we're only engaged in activities that—"
Blitzer interjected to ask why the president said Mattis will retire when he's quitting over policy disagreements.
"The president said that Mattis is retiring. Why didn't—and Mattis is quitting. He's not retiring. He's quitting in protest over the president's policies. So why is the president saying in that statement he made on Twitter that Mattis is retiring?" Blitzer said.
"James Mattis is retiring. At the same time, Mattis said the president's entitled to a secretary of defense that has strong alignment with his views. And I think that's something all Americans can agree with," Miller answered.
Blitzer pushed back, citing Mattis' letter of resignation.
"But in his letter, Mattis lays out his views. And let me just briefly summarize some of those views," Blitzer said. "He stands by treating allies with respect and being clear-eyed about malign actors and competitors. Then he says because the president has a right to a defense secretary whose views are better aligned with his, he's stepping down. That sounds to me, Stephen, like a very strong rebuke of the president's policies. Doesn't it?"
The White House adviser shifted to suggest the focus on Mattis' decision and a withdrawal from Syria is a "hysterical reaction" on the behalf of a media that has a history of poorly covering national security issues.
"It sounds to me like Secretary Mattis believes the president is entitled to a secretary that is better aligned with his views," Miller said. "But let's talk about the big picture here, Wolf. The media that's having this hysterical reaction is the same media in many cases, the same politicians in many cases who cheered our nation into a war in Iraq that turned out to be an absolute catastrophe. This president got elected to get our foreign policy back on the right track after years of being adrift. One foreign policy blunder after another in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya."
Blitzer also asked Miller about Trump's declaration that ISIS has been defeated.
"The president says one day that ISIS is defeated. The next day he says ISIS is there and let Russia take care of it," Blitzer said.
"ISIS has been defeated, but if ISIS wants to retrench and regrow and reorganize, it's going to be up to those countries to defeat their enemy. Wolf, when did the American people sign up to be in every war and every side of conflict all over planet Earth?"
The interview moved on to immigration where Miller repeated Trump's desire to have $5 billion for a border wall. Miller put the onus on Democrats to get a government funding bill passed that includes border security.
"This president has been unprecedented achievements in that area of border security. But right now as we speak, we are rallying Republican lawmakers to try to get a bill out of the House. And the fundamental issue here is whether or not Democrats will supply votes to pass border security or whether they're going to push for open borders," Miller said.