The abrupt resignation of Mattis, right, marks the end of the “contain and control” phase of Trump’s administration. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
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WASHINGTON: Last year, during one particularly frenetic stretch in Donald Trump's presidency, a top Republican senator said there were three men guarding the country from chaos: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, White House chief of staff John Kelly and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.The early consequences of the new era were already apparent at year's end, with Trump on the verge of a government shutdown over the advice of GOP leaders and ordering the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria over Mattis' objections.The shrinking circle around Trump is now increasingly dominated by a small cadre of longtime Trump loyalists and family members, ex-Fox News talent and former GOP lawmakers who were backbenchers on Capitol Hill before being elevated by the president.Mattis was one of three generals who filled the top ranks of Trump's staff, along with Kelly and H.R. McMaster, who spent a year as national security adviser.Mattis and outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunford became almost weekly dinner guests of the president early in his administration, particularly before first lady Melania Trump moved to Washington late last spring.Trump initially hailed Tillerson, the ExxonMobil chief executive, as out of "central casting" when he was tapped as secretary of state, before being unceremoniously discarded by the president earlier this year.
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