EghtesadOnline: The presidency of Donald Trump has lurched from crisis to crisis since he took office less than two years ago, but Thursday was a landmark day of chaos that appeared to test the resolve of even senior Republican backers in Washington.
Defense Secretary James Mattis, a widely respected figure seen as a stabilizing influence inside the administration, handed in his resignation after arguing with Trump over foreign policy in a White House meeting, Reuters reported.
Mattis then released a letter that showed fundamental policy differences between the two men and implicitly criticized Trump’s disregard for allies abroad.
Also on Thursday, Trump resisted pressure to stand down from a decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, made plans to pull American forces out of Afghanistan and pushed the US government toward a shutdown over funding for a border wall, according to Financial Tribune.
To top it all off, US share prices tumbled as investors worried the looming shutdown, slower economic growth and the Federal Reserve’s projections for more interest rate hikes next year.
Partial Gov't Shutdown
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned US President Donald Trump and House conservatives that the only option to prevent a partial shutdown is a seven-week stopgap bill, adding that they shouldn't reject it because of a "temper tantrum" on the border wall.
"With less than two days to go until the appropriations lapse, if we are to avoid a shutdown, the House must pass this continuing resolution and President Trump must sign it," Schumer said from the Senate floor on Thursday.
Schumer argued that if Trump rejects the stopgap measure, it would be "indisputable" that he and Republicans would be blamed for a partial government shutdown over the Christmas holidays, The Hill reported.
Senate Republican leadership appeared confident on Wednesday that Trump would ultimately sign a clean stopgap spending bill, and the chamber passed it by a voice vote late Wednesday night.
But conservative pundits and lawmakers have lashed out over the deal and questioned why Trump would sign something that didn't include additional border wall money.
Trump was scheduled to meet with House Republicans later Thursday.
"Trump's allies in the House can pound their fists on the table all they want, but it's not going to get a wall. They can, having caught the Trump temper tantrum fever, jump up and down, yell and scream. It's not going to get a wall," Schumer said.
Mattis Exit Paves Way for Chaos
The decision of Mattis to quit on Thursday was a warning that will ring through history about an impulsive president who spurns advice, disdains America's friends and proudly repudiates the codes of US leadership that have endured since World War II, CNN reported.
Mattis stopped Washington in its tracks—even after months of stunning plot twists in Trump's presidency and as a legal net tightens around the White House.
His recognition that he could no longer work for an erratic commander in chief who took key decisions, apparently without consulting anyone, could lead to a new period of global uncertainty, as Trump slips his remaining restraints.
For two years, politicians, foreign policy experts and allied diplomats would quietly confide their belief that as long as Mattis was in the Situation Room, alongside the impulsive Trump, everything would be okay.
Fears of a clash between the US and Chinese navies in the South China Sea, an opportunistic Russia, meltdowns in the Middle East or a sudden global crisis with Trump at the helm were eased by thoughts of the scholar-general in the chain of command.
Now, he's going. And the world had better prepare for an unchained US president.
US Troop Withdrawals From Afghanistan, Syria
Afghan officials and America’s western partners reacted with unease on Friday to reports that the United States planned to withdraw more than 5,000 of its 14,000 troops from Afghanistan, after tentative steps toward peace talks.
Although there has been increasing acceptance in Kabul that Trump was impatient for progress in ending the 17-year war, comment from a US official that he was planning to withdraw at least 5,000 troops, coupled with the resignation of Mattis, came as a surprise.
Mattis has been widely seen in Afghanistan as a guarantor of US engagement and his departure would inevitability raise worries in the minds of many Afghan officials.
Earlier the same day, the Trump administration announced that US troops are being withdrawn from Syria, after the president said the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group had been "defeated".
The Pentagon said it was transitioning to the "next phase of the campaign", but did not give details.
Some 2,000 troops have helped rid much of northeastern Syria of IS, but pockets of fighters remain.
Russia's Foreign Ministry welcomed the US decision and said it could result in "genuine, real prospects for a political settlement" in Syria.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan postponed a military operation against Syrian Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, as he also “cautiously” welcomed Washington’s decision to withdraw its troops in the area.