Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that the dismissal of National Securing Adviser Michael Flynn would have "no effect at all" on his dealings with a White House in turmoil.
"Frankly, this has no impact" on his own job as defense secretary, Mattis said in his first comments on the abrupt resignation late Monday night of Flynn.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general and the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, left his post at the direction of President Donald Trump over allegations that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence on his Russian contacts.
"Who's on the president's staff is who I will work with" in the aftermath of Flynn's departure, Mattis said in a video posted by the Pentagon of his remarks to defense reporters aboard his plane enroute to a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.
Mattis spoke before Trump put out another series of Tweets dismissing charges that he was currying favor with Russian President Vladimir Putin as "nonsense" and blaming the media, the National Security Agency and the FBI for leaks that led to Flynn's downfall.
"The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred," Trump said. "This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign."
The president added, "Information is being illegally given to the failing N.Y. Times and Washington Post by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?). Just like Russia."
In his briefing to defense reporters, Mattis said he would focus his talks with the defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels on meeting Trump's demands that they spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense.
"We need an open conversation on where we're going" on defense spending, Mattis said. At a news conference Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also focused on the two percent mark that only five members of the 28-nation alliance – the U.S., Britain, Greece, Estonia, and Poland -- currently meet or exceed.
"Fair burden sharing and increased defense spending underpins the trans-Atlantic alliance," Stoltenberg said. "So we will at our meeting stress the importance of fair burden-sharing and higher defense spending for the alliance."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.