Mattis Resignation Could Be 'Beginning of the Functional End' of Trump's Presidency, Meet the Press Host Says

Chuck Todd, the moderator of NBC News' Meet the Press warned on Sunday that the resignation of President Donald Trump's Secretary of Defense General Jim Mattis could be the "beginning of the functional end of this presidency."

Mattis announced on Thursday that he would resign from his post, noting that he disagreed with Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. "Because you have the right to a defense secretary whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from this position," the secretary said in his resignation letter.

Trump's decision to pull out of Syria and dramatically reduce the level of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has drawn significant criticism from Republicans and Democrats as well as American allies. The president has defended his move by saying that the Islamic State (or ISIS) has been defeated, but the assessment has been widely derided across the political spectrum and by close U.S. allies in Europe and groups still fighting ISIS in Syria. Reports have suggested that "a general fear of the unknown" has spread through the Pentagon following Mattis's resignation.

Discussing Mattis's resignation and Trump's surprise troop withdrawal on NBC News' Today Show on Sunday, Todd pointed out that Republican lawmakers "largely" viewed Mattis as a person they were more comfortable with handling foreign policy than Trump.

"With Mattis gone, when you think about Senate Republicans as a group … they are basically what keeps the Republican Party, coalition that prop Trump up at this point or vice versa, together," Todd said. "If they break as a group, the president is totally on an island, totally unprotected from [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller, totally unprotected from a lot of things," he pointed out.

"We may look back on the Mattis resignation as the beginning of the functional end of this presidency," Todd suggested. "I don't know right now what Senate Republican feels comfortable going out on a limb for this president, when right now they're so unnerved by how the process works," he explained.

Last week, shortly after news of Trump's decision to withdraw troops broke, leading Republicans shared their reactions. Many criticized the president, with Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina referring to the move as a "huge Obama-like mistake." Trump has pushed back, saying he always campaigned on bringing U.S. forces home, arguing that there is no need for them to remain involved in the foreign conflicts.

On Sunday, just before noon, the president posted to Twitter to say that Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would replace Mattis as Acting Secretary of Defense on January 1.

He also revealed in a follow up tweet that he had just spoken to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the U.S. withdrawal from Syria. Turkish forces and military aid have long been a factor in the Syrian conflict, with Anakara's interests often appearing at odds with those of the U.S.

"We discussed ISIS, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area," Trump said in his tweet describing the phone discussion. "After many years they [the U.S. troops] are coming home."

Mattis Resignation Could Be 'Beginning of the Functional End' of Trump's Presidency, Meet the Press Host Says | U.S.