Bizarre First Pentagon Meeting Between Mattis and Trump Detailed in New Book: ‘I Want a Victory Day’
A soon-to-be-released book is shedding some light on how President Donald Trump supposedly derailed his first briefing at the Pentagon by demanding a military parade.
Guy Snodgrass, a former speechwriter for James Mattis, shared an excerpt from his book with Politico, describing how the former defense secretary wanted to use the meeting to inform the president about the importance of America’s international engagements. Mattis and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were concerned about several of the statements Trump was making at the time, but they figured that “Trump could be made to recognize the value of American allies and the stability afforded by the presence of our troops, he’d reconsider and alter course.”
Snodgrass attended the briefing and got the impression that Trump “appeared to see this entire briefing as pointless.” When the briefing arrived at the subject of America’s military dealings with Japan and South Korea, Trump complained that both countries weren’t contributing enough before going off-topic to grumble about trade.
“Japan and South Korea are taking advantage of the United States,” said Trump.
Eventually, Trump suddenly started talking about how he just got back from a trip to France, and that’s how he made his first pitch to have a military parade in Washington D.C.
From the excerpt:
“I just returned from France,” he said. “Did you see President Macron’s handshake?” he asked no one in particular. “He wouldn’t let go. He just kept holding on. I spent two hours at Bastille Day. Very impressive.”
“I want a ‘Victory Day.’ Just like Veterans Day. The Fourth of July is too hot,” he said, apparently out of nowhere. “I want vehicles and tanks on Main Street. On Pennsylvania Avenue, from the Capitol to the White House. We need spirit! We should blow everybody away with this parade. The French had an amazing parade on Bastille Day with tanks and everything. Why can’t we do that?”
The president’s demand caused the briefing to take an awkward turn as Mattis presented his objections to the idea. Mattis eventually promised to look into the parade idea, but Snodgrass said he and Tillerson were both frustrated with the president as the rest of the meeting careened from topic to topic.
Many times during Tillerson’s tenure, reporters would claim that he thought his boss was an idiot—and each time Tillerson would deny it publicly. But there was no doubt among most observers in the room that day that Tillerson was thinking exactly that. Both men—Mattis and Tillerson—were despondent. We had just witnessed a meeting with Trump, up close and personal.
Now we knew why access was controlled so tightly.
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