Secretary of Defense General Mattis will be leaving the administration at the end of February, Trump tweets announcement

This is a rush transcript from "The Five," December 20, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GREG GUTFELD, HOST: Hi, I'm Greg Gutfeld with Lisa Boothe, Juan Williams, Jason Chaffetz, and a candy cane is her walking stick, Dana Perino. The Five,

Yup, Fox News alert, right there, President Trump now saying he won't sign a stopgap spending bill without the cash for the wall. We'll get to that, but first something more important. Once again, Donald Trump attacked the media, accusing them of fake news. Wait, I was half wrong. Fake news, yes, but it wasn't Trump. It was incoming congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez who bashed Politico for, quote, gossip that masquerades as reporting, end quote.

DANA PERINO, HOST: Thank you.

GUTFELD: Of one piece, she says this story has not a single name or verifiable source. My dad had a name for junk articles like this, birdcage lining. It's more awkward than fake news but it works. So, I am awaiting the media outrage. How dare she attack the press? Isn't she aware that she's putting reporters in harm's way? I kid. Of course, the press will save all that for Trump and never shoot inside the tent. AOC is a socialist, putting her smack dab in the middle of their own yurt. And I use the word yurt. Like, good for her.

See, Trump's chief impact is giving voice to the ticked off masses who for so long have put up with half-truths passed off as whole truths. Trump is you and me yelling at the TV back when there was such a thing as TV. And bashing fake news is now spreading to people like AOC, who should speak up. If she doesn't, if you don't, what happens? Well, then reporters can decide what they want to write first and then find the sources to shape a piece to their liking. Germany's most influential newsmagazine had its star reporter just confessed to making up stories for seven years. And get this, he was CNN's journalist of the year in 2014. We are living in a simulation. So, I welcome AOC for joining Trump in fighting fake news. Pretty soon she'll be eating well done steak with ketchup. Dana, I've said --

(CROSSTALK)

GUTFELD: No, she has salmon. She cooks well rice and salmon.

PERINO: You've been watching the videos?

GUTFELD: Yes, I have. I've said this months ago, Dana, that I think she has real potential for being an original person, even though she's a socialist.

PERINO: Yeah.

GUTFELD: I think she's -- I think she's very Trumpian in the sense that she literally engages everything. She has an answer. She'll talk to people. She'll say stupid stuff, but she owns it.

PERINO: Yeah. Well, in this case with these reporters. The reporters in my experience, it's very rare that there is no truth to a story at all.

GUTFELD: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

PERINO: And I'm sure that she's got a lot of people around her. She's brand new. Like, I'm sure there are people speaking on her behalf without her permission.

GUTFELD: Yes.

PERINO: Who maybe said something like this or maybe they were talking, you know, in the hallway about it, and then all of a sudden it gets to Politico and they read about it and like how did that happen?

GUTFELD: Right.

PERINO: She's got to lock that down --

GUTFELD: Yeah.

PERINO: -- unless she doesn't care, and she might not. Like, she's doing fine.

GUTFELD: I think everybody cares. Here's my theory, Jason. Welcome to the show. You look great --

JASON CHAFFETZ, HOST: Thank you.

GUTFELD: -- for a grandfather.

CHAFFETZ: Yes, a grandfather.

GUTFELD: He is a grandfather. You look younger than me.

(CROSSTALK)

GUTFELD: You know --

JUAN WILLIAMS, HOST: Imagine how I feel about that comment.

GUTFELD: You look great as a grandfather, too. You look terrible as a grandfather, Lisa.

(CROSSTALK)

GUTFELD: You know, one day you can self-identify as a grandfather. Anyway, where am I going -- Ok, here's my point. OK. So, people don't realize how biased the media is until they write about them, so when you get an article written about you, you go, this didn't happen. And I think that's what happens, that with Trump knows that because he's been in the media forever. And then, Alexandria -- AOC gets something written about her and she was, yeah. If you've ever been the object or subject of a piece, right? You know.

CHAFFETZ: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Wait, what do you do for a living, Gregory?

GUTFELD: Wait -- I forgot. But, anyway, go ahead.

CHAFFETZ: No, but I mean, that was one of the frustrations. I go to Washington, D.C. and suddenly these articles in big publications like the Washington Post, they never call you. They never ask a question. Suddenly, they're the expert? They write all these things about it.

GUTFELD: Yes.

CHAFFETZ: I really like what Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out in this -- to Ocasio-Cortez, which said imagine what it's like if they actually hate you.

GUTFELD: Yeah.

CHAFFETZ: I think you know. And so, there's a lot of truth to that. It is endless how many things get written about somebody with no sources. Nothing --

(CROSSTALK)

PERINO: Do you think it's not true that somebody on her staff said that they were going to try to go after Hakeem Jeffries?

CHAFFETZ: Oh, yeah. No, that's a problem.

PERINO: Of course.

(CROSSTALK)

GUTFELD: Fake news. I'm defending her. Fake news.

LISA BOOTHE, HOST: But to be fair, I mean, we have seen like genuinely fake news, though, with Brian -- ABC's Brian Ross' story, about Michael Flynn, CNN's story about WikiLeaks --

(CROSSTALK)

BOOTHE: So, there are legitimately, sometimes these just, like, completely, you know, no facts at all, just completely fake news which President Trump called out. But I actually think -- one of the best things about this administration is in sort of pulling the curtain back in the sense that there's never really been objectivity in the media, practically when it pertains to Republicans. So, I'm kind of glad that President Trump has called that out and exposed it. Now, you can make the argument, of course, that he's taken it too far, and I think that's completely fair. But I'm glad he's calling it out.

One of my favorite moments with President Trump is -- I think it is one of his first interviews with ABC, David Muir, when he took office. And David had asked him about the women's march, and he was like, well, you know, march for life is coming up but you never pay attention that you don't cover it. And you should have seen his face. He was like -- because he's not used to Republicans calling him out. Reporters aren't used to be called out on this stuff. And then they ended up covering march for life. So, I actually appreciate about that President Trump, and I think that kind of transparency calling it out, putting that out in the open is healthy and good for the country.

GUTFELD: You know, Juan, obviously, you're an award-winning journalist. And I think, like, inaccurate -- you can answer this better than anybody. Inaccurate news prospers if it matches the assumptions of its peers. It could be on right or left, right? But the guy -- the German writer -- pieces had pretty much matched the story lines that they wanted, like that -- that they were a sign that said Mexicans go home on the border, and so, they didn't bother to question it. And so, it's about stories that are almost too good to be true that people get away with.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know what I think is, is that we live -- let me just say that we live in two errors here. So there's an error where everything was in fragment in terms of you go to your media bubble --

GUTFELD: Right.

WILLIAMS: -- to get your news. And you basically want what your opinion is affirmed, right? Your pre-existing opinion confirmed, so you go to places that you think would just agree with you. But in the prior world, there were stories like -- I don't know if you remember this, Greg, Janet Cooke - -

GUTFELD: Right. WILLIAMS: -- Jason Blair, people like that, they made up stories.

GUTFELD: Steven Glass.

WILLIAMS: Right. So, they made up stories. And I think this guy, Spiegel, fits into that mode. Very young, very ambitious --

GUTFELD: Thirty one.

WILLIAMS: -- fast rising star --

PERINO: Why not just write fiction?

GUTFELD: He was.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK) PERINO: Write novel or like write short stories.

GUTFELD: You know what he claims? That he -- because he gotten so much -- I don't know -- so esteemed so quickly, he felt pressure to keep improving.

PERINO: Oh, how awful.

GUTFELD: And that he is sick and needs help.

WILLIAMS: He's a lying dog. I mean, this is what he is because he's hurting people. But the thing about this and then it becomes now, in this moment, where everyone is in their little media bubble, it becomes very polis that's because your Spiegel was going after Trump many times. Very critical of Trump. So I think a lot of people on the right are celebrating as --

GUTFELD: Of course.

WILLIAMS: -- undercutting Spiegel's credibility.

GUTFELD: Yes.

WILLIAMS: But I will also say this, that when you go to a lot of websites today, depending on your political orientation, you've got to stop and think is this real? Is this true?

GUTFELD: I think that's healthy.

(CROSSTALK) WILLIAMS: I wish that there was a better -- what I would call a gatekeeper function where you could say, like, for example, Jason was complaining about the Washington Post. The Washington Post is not going away tomorrow. They have a credibility issue. They've got to protect their brand. So when Jason calls and complains or writes a letter, they do respond to you.

BOOTHE: Do you see stories --

CHAFFETZ: No.

WILLIAMS: No? OK.

(CROSSTALK)

BOOTHE: But, remember the Nikki Haley story with the curtains? And Nikki Haley had said that her staff told them this is not her administration, this is a previous administration. They ran the story anyway. So, a lot of times you've got media reporters that don't care particularly when it paint this administration in a bad light or Republicans, unfortunately. I mean, bias does exist.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, but I think --

PERINO: I think they're different things, though.

WILLIAMS: -- to Greg's point.

PERINO: All of those things I think are different than what AOC is complaining about. And I would just say, like, if she's concerned about it, she needs to get a handle on the people that are around her. She has to make sure she has people that she trusts that are going to speak on her behalf because the editors of the piece said we've got three sources here saying those things. And so, I don't think that they're all lying.

GUTFELD: I do. I'm defending her. I do not like --

PERINO: I'm not defending her.

GUTFELD: I don't -- why do you hate her? I don't like unnamed sources. I am that way too. I feel like, who could it be?

PERINO: It's like -- OK, right. OK. So let me just give you an example though, about three months ago I got a call from somebody -- a friend close to somebody in the White House. Right now I check it was somebody else in the White House, and they say you can take this to the bank. This is true. So I say it. On the record spokesperson says that's not the case. I'm like, OK. Well, if you think that there's people in your building that are not telling me a different story, you're wrong. I'm just saying, for her, for her success, surround yourself with people that you trust.

WILLIAMS: She's a rookie, you know. She's a big rookie. And let me just say, you know, Hakeem Jeffries' beat her.

GUTFELD: Right.

WILLIAMS: Beat her for the Democratic caucus chair, which is the fifth highest ranking spot. So there's a little bad blood.

GUTFELD: Yeah. All right. We've got to move on. Coming up, Trump not backing down on the border wall, the president refusing to sign a spending bill to keep the government open without money to build it, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PERINO: President Trump defending his decision to remove 2,000 troops from Syria. Trump saying the move shouldn't be a surprise because it's been his position for years. Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham calling it a major mistake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY Graham, R-S.C.: This will be seen by the entire world as a decision not based on sound military advice, a decision based on frustration, and all of our allies are scratching their head right now. I just talked to the British. They don't know where to go. And I do know this, that in this war, you will not win it by quit -- by giving up. This is akin to surrendering.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERINO: The president firing back at Graham, tweeting in part, so hard to believe that Lindsey Graham would be against saving soldier lives and billions of dollars. Meanwhile, Senator Mike Lee backing President Trump's decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE LEE, R-UT: One of my colleagues just called this an Obama- like decision. I couldn't disagree more. I couldn't agree more with the president's decision. Look, by definition, this is the opposite of an Obama decision. Obama got us involved. Trump is taking us out. Congress has never declared war or authorized the use of military force in Syria. We shouldn't be there anyway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PERINO: All right. Jason, I'll start with this -- going to call you congressman that you hold the title for life. I could call you grandfather. I could call you my friend. OK. So, Jason, I think one of the things President Trump did campaign on, but then when he became president, he sent troops, he changed the rules of engagement, and he kicked ISIS's rear end.

GUTFELD: Watch your mouth.

PERINO: I think he left 2,000 troops there which as a pretty low cost high reward win for him, which is why, I think, it took a lot of people by surprise. That's the surprise.

CHAFFETZ: I think it did catch people by surprise. But I actually believe in what the president is doing on this. I believe if congress wants to do more than just write letters and hold press conferences, they should declare war. And I think Lindsey Graham used the word war. If that's what he believes it is and he believes that the military should do that, then author and get past a declaration of war. Without that, I see no clear and present danger to the United States. I want a president to have clear flexibility to use the forces of the military. No doubt the world is safer wherever our military is. But the one thing that never gets done, Afghanistan and here is what is victory? What does victory actually look like for our troops to get to actually come home? And that, I think, has to be done and I'm with the president on this. And let the rest of the world step up and let the bad guys continue to kill the bad guys.

PERINO: In my ear while -- I knew that this was coming. In my ear, though, just now the producer telling me that Jennifer Griffin, our own reporter, Fox News, reporting that President Trump is announcing or planning to announce a significant drawdown of troops from Afghanistan. So, I mean, is South Korea next?

GUTFELD: May be. Maybe -- yeah. You know, here's the thing, I think everybody including Graham, and our allies, and the people -- even on this network are overdoing the hysteria. OK. Let's just go through -- let's look at the guy we're talking about, Donald Trump. His goal was to crush ISIS. He even suggested killing their families. You know, that's kind of extreme. He hired mad dog Mattis. He's probably the best ally Israel had in a decade, maybe. He's obsessively gone on about building up our military. So, it's out of character for him to suddenly put America in harm's way. So I think there's something else going on here. There's another plan. And, on top of that, I'm very optimistic about this. I'm like you, Jason. I think that there is a plan behind this strategy because this is not -- this is part of a larger puzzle. Plus, it's only with 2,000 troops. They're easy going out and they're just as easy coming back in, right? If you need them back in there you just turn around. If all of a sudden ISIS pops up again, you whack-a-mole into a fine --

CHAFFETZ: Then you go with everything. Fight to win. If the United States can do anything it wants, but go with everything and knock the living --

GUTFELD: Watch -- watch it, you're Mormon.

CHAFFETZ: All right.

(LAUGHTER) BOOTHE: But I think that's kind of the question because I'm sort of conflicted on this because someone like Senator Lindsey Graham, I would ask him, as you've pointed out, what is victory look like in Syria to you? Because my understanding was the mandate was to destroy ISIS, we have largely done then. Although, there is a concern about prematurely declaring war or victory over a terrorist group. We've seen presidents make this mistake in the past. Remember, President Obama said al-Qaeda was on the run and then Benghazi happened, right? And if it's not ISIS, we're fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia. You've got AQAP in Yemen. And so, the problem with prematurely declaring victory over terrorist organizations is that ideology continues to live on and that's the broader problem we're facing in, you know, counter terrorism efforts, right? But then there's also the concern, of course, we're leaving a vacuum then there as well for state actors like Iran and Russia and potentially terrorists as well. So, I don't really know what the answer is there. It seems like no one has one. But it seems like no one has any good answers which I imagine is why President Trump decided to pull our troops out because nobody has --

(CROSSTALK)

GUTFELD: He has the answer, but he can't tell us. Exactly what he did with ISIS. Remember, he said I can't tell you what I'm going to do because why would I?

WILLIAMS: Yeah. But then, what did he do?

GUTFELD: He decimated them, Juan. Decimated, crushed them.

WILLIAMS: I would say that if you go talk to the people in the Pentagon, they would say no. That there still is a presence.

GUTFELD: I think there is.

(CROSSTALK)

GUTFELD: It's been decimated, which is --

WILLIAMS: But they're lower -- but here's the thing -- by the way, when you said this thing about why doesn't congress declare war, I have been on this bandwagon forever, because I thought --

PERINO: I'm against that.

WILLIAMS: -- Republicans should have when Obama had the redline, oh, they said, yeah, go ahead. Obama said have a vote, declare war --

PERINO: No, but that's not -- but Obama wanted to limit himself. He wanted to limit the commander in chief. Yes, he did. And that's why Republicans said no.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAFFETZ: And he should have done it in Libya.

WILLIAMS: OK.

CHAFFETZ: Should have never gone into Libya without declaring war.

WILLIAMS: Right. So with congress, because they're afraid of having to -- one, you know, hold the actual mantle saying, yeah, this is our war, refused to do it. They've been doing this for decades.

CHAFFETZ: Both parties, I totally agree.

WILLIAMS: All right, the second thing to say here is he ignored the advice coming from the defense department, right? So he has ignored --

PERINO: So did Obama.

WILLIAMS: No. In this case, it's not only --

PERINO: He did.

WILLIAMS: Oh, fine. But I don't know what about-ism has to do with this? This is this moment.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: I know. But here's the thing, I think that when you have, at least, I think you're right on it, this is non-state actors. These are terrorists. So it's not about a parade at the end of the day where everyone is marching down --

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: -- to a confetti parade. You are destabilizing the Middle East by allowing Syrian forces, Bashar al-Assad's forces to gain strength under the support of Iran and Russia, and they have -- they do not have our interests at heart.

PERINO: We don't have time for the answer.

WILLIAMS: And if you have -- if you have terrorists fomenting there in the Middle East, guess where they show up? At our doorstep.

GUTFELD: I wouldn't mind letting the Russians kill some terrorists. And if they're not that good at it, we'll come back.

WILLIAMS: What if they support them, Greg?

GUTFELD: I don't think they support ISIS. They have their own issues with radical Islam, believe me.

PERINO: All right, some big interviews coming up tonight on Fox News. Bret Baier's exclusive sit down with outgoing interior secretary Ryan Zinke, followed by Senator Susan Collins on The Story with Martha MacCallum. Coming up, new reaction from President Trump after refusing to sign a government spending bill because it does not include enough border security funding.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: This is a Fox News alert, President Trump just tweeting the secretary of defense James Mattis will be retiring at the end of February. Lisa, what do you make of it?

BOOTHE: I find it sad. I mean, I love General Mattis. I mean, this is a tough guy. I think a lot of people -- like, one of the biggest criticisms, I guess, he wasn't literally listening to his generals regarding Syria, but one of the biggest criticisms was that he wasn't going to follow the advice of his advisors and he wasn't going to surround himself with necessarily the best people. And I think in choosing General Mattis, that helped give a lot of confidence to naysayers and people that were concerned about the kind of decisions this president would make. And so, I find it, you know, really disappointing and sad that General Mattis is leaving particularly at a time when we're dealing with North Korea. We've got China on the rise as well, so I'm disappointed.

WILLIAMS: So, you know, Jason, the thing, I mean, President Trump recently said, oh, Mattis is like a Democrat or something, remember that? And now you have him defy -- the president defying Mattis' suggestions with regard to pulling those troops out of Syria. What do you make of this?

CHAFFETZ: Look, the country will owe a lot to General Mattis. Four decades of service in the marines, serving tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He'll be remembered for a long and storied career. If there's one great pick that I think the president made early on in his cabinet it was General Mattis. I think on both sides of the aisle, so much respect for this man and what he's done. One of the quotes I recently read from him, I won't get that quote exactly right, but he was basically -- engage your brain before you engage your guns. And for a military leader to think like that, talk like that, and to be able to back it up, it's inspirational. There's a lot to learn from this man and we've got to think him for his service. And, evidently, he'll be there still as the secretary of defense until February.

WILLIAMS: General Perino, what do you think?

PERINO: I'm no general at all. I cannot hold a candle to him. I think that you saw that the Pentagon actually worked very well -- run very well for the last two years. And General Kelly -- I'm sorry, General Mattis was able to fulfill President Trump's direction when he asked for troops to go to the border for support down there, and he did that and really push back on media criticism, or I shouldn't say just media but Democratic criticism, and he was willing to do that and he really went to the mat for the president. But now, I think that the White House is going to have, once again, a big nomination fight on their hands. Not a fight, but it will be just an issue, right, they'll take up because they have now the A.G. at Department of Justice and DOD.

But I would say something about this move, this has been rumored for a while, and the demise of Jim Mattis have been rumored -- you could report it every week, somebody said he was going to be out the door. But I will say that if you think back to the Obama administration, everyone who was on the national security team for President Obama when they left and wrote their books, every single one of them, Kerry, Panetta, Gates, Clinton, all said the president did not listen to us on Syria. He didn't listen to us. He didn't take our advice. But they stayed, right? Like, obviously, on this case, General Mattis is saying OK, like if you're not going to listen to me and I can't be part of this and I can't be behind this, I'm going to have to go. And I admire that.

WILLIAMS: Greg, I just want you to hold for a second --

GUTFELD: Sure.

WILLIAMS: -- because we've got John Roberts who's at --

GUTFELD: I love John.

WILLIAMS: John, did you hear that? Greg loves you. Feel good this Christmas season. John, please tell us what are you hearing?

JOHN ROBERTS, CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is something, I think as Dana and all of you been saying has been rumored for quite a while, you know, seem to gain a lot of momentum in recent weeks when the president referred to James Mattis as something of a Democrat. You could sort of tell that the writing was on the wall, that there was going to be a change at some point. Now, a lot of people are going to look at this and be very dismayed because they really believe that James Mattis with his hand on the tiller there at the Pentagon was a real kind of moderating influence, a very, very professional influence. You know, there are not a lot of people who are going to say bad things about Jim Mattis, particularly his tenure there at the helm of the Pentagon on the civilian side, because don't forget he had to get that waiver because he hadn't been retired long enough to take over a civilian job at the Pentagon.

But I think it was the sort of case where, you know, the president at the very beginning was all about Jim Mattis, calling him mad dog, calling him one of my generals, but I think in recent months, there's been a little bit of a parting of ways on a number of issues and the president seemed to indicate that Mattis might not be hanging around for too much longer. So now we learn that at the end of February, he's going to be departing the Pentagon. Have you read the tweet, by the way, that the president sent out yet?

JUAN WILLIAMS, HOST: No. Please go ahead, John, if you have it.

ROBERTS: Yes, we've got it right here. It says, "General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my administration as secretary of defense for the past two years. During Jim's tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new secretary of defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!"

So certainly, Mattis is going out, you know, on top here, unlike some of the other people who have departed the administration, either last year or in recent weeks.

Nikki Haley was one who got an Oval Office send-off that a lot of people still scratching their heads over how that all went down. But the president clearly happy with Mattis, though again, I think they kind of had a little bit of a difference of opinion over the past few months. And I was not surprised to get this tweet.

I think that a lot of people were probably thinking that this was something that was going to happen. Though, again, I think there's a lot of people in this nation somewhat troubled over the fact that Mattis will be leaving.

WILLIAMS: But John, he also -- the president ignored Mattis' suggestion as to who would be the next chairman of the joint chiefs. And the question that I'm hearing around is, you know, what happened to "my generals," which is the way the president, who went to a military prep school, said, you know, "I'm going to bring in these generals." But you see right now John Kelly is gone. Mattis gone. What's going on there? Do you have that sense that something is different?

ROBERTS: I think the president still likes his generals. He just likes different generals now than he liked back at the beginning the administration. He likes general Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff, who we named at the Army-Navy game a couple of weeks ago to succeed General Joe Dunford as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

And I'm told that that was a brushback pitch to Mattis, who was looking at another candidate. The fact that the president named Mark Milley as the successor to Joe Dunford, nearly 10 months ahead of what he would actually take over, because that transition doesn't happen until October 1, was another sign that the president might be trying to box out at least some of Mattis' choices, if not Mattis himself.

WILLIAMS: So John, there's a question here from Jason.

JASON CHAFFETZ, HOST: John, how closely should we read the departure to the action in Syria? Is pulling out of Syria in direct relation to what's happening here with Mattis, or is that a coincidence?

ROBERTS: Well, it might be coincidental more than anything, Jason. I don't know for sure.

But one thing I do know is that, despite all of the advice that the president gets, there's one person who makes the decision. And even though he was being advised by many, many people, and we've heard the aftermath of that, particularly from Senator Lindsey Graham, who just had a much longer tweet thread than I've ever seen President Trump put out there on Twitter saying why we shouldn't pull out of Syria despite all of the advice against it. The president decided, "Look, it's not doing us any good right now, really, this crescent of influence that Iran was trying to establish from Iran all the way through to the Mediterranean has been accomplished, despite the fact that U.S. forces are there.

They are a continued risk, and they're not really making that much of a difference on the ground, in terms of Iran's influence, Russia's influence and what's going on with Bashar al-Assad. So you might as well pull them out.

But that decision was made literally against the advice of almost everyone that the president consulted about it.

WILLIAMS: John Roberts at the White House. Thank you, John.

Now we go from the White House to the Pentagon and Jennifer Griffin -- Jennifer.

JENNIFER GRIFFIN, CORRESPONDENT: Juan, we just received a letter, a two- page letter signed by Secretary Mattis to the president dated today, December 20, in which he describes the reasons for why he is retiring as the 26th defense secretary. I'll read the key paragraph here.

The news, of course, was broken in a tweet from the president. But Secretary Mattis says here, "Because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects." He's referring to the issue of alliances and -- and the U.S. role in the world and the role of the U.S. military in the world. "I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed, as well as to make sure the department's interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include," and he goes on.

The point here is, Juan, that this was not something that Secretary Mattis did lightly. I have been told by sources here in the Pentagon amidst the rumors that Mattis was leaving during the past year, that he would not leave unless he was pushed out.

This was not a decision he takes lightly. He clearly has been at odds with the president over a number of issues, especially if you look in the last few days, the issue of pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria. That is something that Mattis opposed. That is something that all of the top leaders here in the Pentagon, as well as the U.S. Central Command generals opposed. I was told by a very well-placed source here in the Pentagon that morale has never been lower at meetings here at the Pentagon of the top brass in the last few days to discuss the pullout of troops from Syria, as well as now we're learning just moments ago that the president is considering pulling out a significant number, thousands of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. I'm told that that will begin in January. And that it will be more than 3,000 troops that will be coming out. There are about 15,000 on the ground there.

But Mattis' influence has waned in recent -- recent months. We've seen it. We've seen him spend less time with the president. And you heard the president himself undermined Secretary Mattis when he, in that interview with "60 Minutes," said that he was a Democrat. That was the first sign that -- that things were really very tense.

And then there was the decision by chief of staff John Kelly to leave his position. Kelly had been an ally of Secretary Mattis and also of General Joe Dunford here in the Pentagon. All of them, all three of them Marines.

When the president took the unprecedented decision to announce the successor to General Joe Dunford, who was not supposed to leave as chairman of the joint chiefs until next October, when he announced that at the Army- Navy game, that was something that also raised a lot of eyebrows in this building, because there was a feeling that, by announcing that General Mark Milley would be taking over as chairman of the joint chiefs, that, in fact, that would be undermining General Dunford in that position and that General Dunford, having been a longtime friend of John Kelly's, that that was somehow related to perhaps Kelly leaving his position.

WILLIAMS: So Jennifer, we have a question here from Dana Perino.

DANA PERINO, HOST: But it's just -- it's a very quick one, Jennifer. I'm just curious because -- that's great reporting in the context. But of course, then the next question in Washington is always who next? And could it be Mick Mulvane, who is now the chief of staff, OMB director and DOD secretary. I kid. But any question -- or any clues as to who it will be?

GRIFFIN: I think there have been some names that have been floated in the past. Senator Tom Cotton is a name that has appeared at times. There are -- I think there will be a number of people considered for this position.

It is very clear that, with Mick Mulvaney coming in as chief of staff, he has long wanted to curtail the defense budget, which he thinks is much too high. And you heard the president indicate that he wanted to cut that defense budget. He's been all over the place in terms of where the real number for the next 2020 defense budget will be.

But I think that tnathe notion of pulling troops out and saving money by pulling troops from overseas positions, I think that you're clearly already seeing the influence of Mick Mulvaney on the Pentagon. And I think many of these senior leaders who are leaving, Mattis being the top of the chain, felt that they were going to be asked to do things that they don't believe in.

I don't think any of the military brass here believed that sending troops down to the border, active-duty troops, was the correct use of military funds or those active-duty troops. It was legally very complicated for them to figure out what they could legally do down at the border.

So there have been a number of areas where, starting really from the time that President Trump took office and asked Secretary Mattis to take over here at the Pentagon, they disagreed on the issue of torture. You heard Secretary Mattis stand up in the early days and say that he explained to the president that torture doesn't work.

And then I was on the first trip that Secretary Mattis took overseas to NATO headquarters, and at that time, he was -- it was a delicate balance between things that President Trump was saying that was undermining his ability to talk to NATO allies and deliver a message that was seen as very hostile to NATO allies.

So there's been this very difficult balance. Secretary Mattis did not believe that the U.S., when negotiating with North Korea, should be halting military exercises with South Korea, but he was ignored on that, as well.

WILLIAMS: Jennifer -- Jennifer, let me just go back to something that you read from the letter that struck me. It said that you would be better served, Mr. President, by someone -- and here I'm quoting -- "better aligned with your views." I thought it would be, "You know what? We had our problems, but thank you, sir, for the opportunity to serve." That's not that kind of letter.

GRIFFIN: That's not the mood here in the Pentagon right now. I can tell you, Juan, that the mood here in the Pentagon at the senior level is one of great frustration that their views are not being considered, that the interagency process is not being followed. That the president is tweeting out policy rather than going through the normal process of sending over orders as commander in chief. It is a very disorganized process in which they are getting word from the White House as to how to proceed with the wars and how to move troops around.

WILLIAMS: Jennifer, let me -- Jennifer, let me ask some of my colleagues here, beginning with Greg Gutfeld, to jump in and ask questions.

GREG GUTFELD, HOST: Thank you. I don't really have a question, but I do have a comment. Maybe you can comment on my comments. That would be fun. I think that a lot of this has to do with Trump's work style.

Trump is extremely exhausting, right? Two years working for Trump is probably eight years for -- for normal people. And I've worked in the company, and I know that when you have -- there are certain types of boss styles that are jarring. And I think that that might be -- this is a guy that was retired, who came back in and achieved, in two years, quite a lot. If you look at ISIS, if you look at the rebuilt military, if you look at the -- China, you look at North Korea. He accomplished a hell of a lot in two years. Almost eight years' worth of work in two years, but it's exhausting. And if you don't -- maybe it's like, "Hey, it was a good ride. I don't need this."

WILLIAMS: What do you think, Jennifer?

GRIFFIN: Well, I must say that's not exactly the Secretary Mattis that I know. And from those who worked very closely with him, he is not somebody who gets tired. He spends very little time sleeping. He has been in war. He's led Marines in combat. And he's not exhaustive.

But he is -- he does, and you see it in this letter of resignation and announcing his retirement. He says that he's not aligned with many of the president's policies.

WILLIAMS: All right. So let me -- let me ask Lisa to jump in.

BOOTHE: I just have more of a comment, obviously, with Christmas coming up. If you talk to people in the military, Jennifer, you do all the time, they love General Mattis, because he cares about them and he felt that he cared about them, and he served alongside them.

And there was the story of when, in 1998, when he was a brigadier general, he let a young Marine go home and spend Christmas with his family. Because he was married and had kids.

And so I think it's just that kind of attitude and the way he treated, you know, the troops of why he earned so much respect among his fellow Marines and other military men and women alike.

GRIFFIN: I can say that he is beloved among the military that I talked to every day, not only just here in the Pentagon but out in the field. Marines, soldiers, airmen.

This is an iconic military leader. This is somebody who is still, at the last Army-Navy game, I remember he got a rousing standing ovation and applause when his name was announced in that stadium. This is not somebody who is seen as having served and that people think, OK, he's past -- past his prime and ready to retire. This is somebody who is still an icon in the U.S. military.

WILLIAMS: Jennifer, thank you very much for joining us. That was terrific reporting. Jennifer Griffin at the Pentagon.

We're joined now by a Bret Baier, chief political correspondent in Washington. The politics of this are going to have some strong repercussions. Bret, what do you see here?

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, a couple things, Juan. This, like the Syria announcement about troop drawdown, came as a surprise to allies. They are just starting to get this word via Twitter and other places.

I think the key line in Secretary Mattis' resignation letter is this: quote, "Because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my ten euros February 28, 2019."

So, you know, history will record that this happened one day after the announcement of the Syria withdrawal, that the Pentagon was largely caught off-guard by. It happened on the same day that "The Wall Street Journal" reported and we then confirmed that there is a plan to have a significant drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.

Yes, the president campaigned on that and had talked about that, but the timing of it will obviously be questioned about whether this was a precipitating factor for Secretary Mattis leaving.

WILLIAMS: So Bret, the intriguing point here is that you have lots of Trump supporters who are big military supporters. And we just heard from Jennifer Griffin that this sequence of events is not being viewed positively by our military. Do you anticipate that there will be Republican pushback of the sort that we've seen from Lindsey Graham on the Syria withdrawal?

BAIER: I think so. They were comfortable, Juan, with Secretary Mattis in that position. Remember, heading in, that there was kind of this troika of Secretary Mattis, then Secretary of State Tillerson, and General John Kelly as White House chief of staff. Largely seen as a stabilizing force. Now all three of them will be gone. Secretary Mattis the latest, as of February -- the end of February.

I think you look to who is going to fill those shoes. Secretary Mattis was well-respected around the world primarily. He did not always see eye to eye with this president and told him so. And the president told him so, Mattis so. That "60 Minutes" interview saying, you know, he may be a Democrat, answering one question.

I asked Secretary Mattis about his plans and whether he was going to step down at the Reagan Defense Forum. He said he was not going to tell me. I'd be the last to know and what do you know? I'm the last to know.

But he did say that he felt it was his service to the country, his duty to serve the president at the president's pleasure. And he talked about a lot of important things happening around the world that he is integral in.

And it is going to be a challenge. There is obviously a right seat, left seat here for time for someone to be chosen and kind of get up to speed.

WILLIAMS: Bret, Jason Chaffetz has a question for you.

CHAFFETZ: Bret, you know, obviously the person goes to, you know, who are the names that might be out there. I think one of the problems and challenges the president is going to have is Mattis was beloved on both sides of the aisle, House and Senate. They were able to plus up the budget by literally tens of billions of dollars. Who can fill those shoes and have that same type of gravitas across party aisles in Congress?

BAIER: These are big shoes to fill, Jason. I'd tell you, there are obviously names that are floated around Washington. It had been rumored that -- which is why I asked the question out at the Reagan Defense Forum, that he was considering it and that possibly, he might leave. I agree with you that it's going to be tough to fill.

The other thing to point out is that the president came out at the Army- Navy game and made the early announcement that he was going to replace the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Dunford, with Army General Milley, also very well-respected in all kinds of circles. But announcing that early. So that transition is happening, as well, next year.

I think, you know, he has -- President Trump has talked to Jack Keane a lot. He has talked to a number of other people who on Capitol Hill are possible. Lindsey Graham has expressed privately that he would love to be defense secretary.

You know, it's -- the parlor game begins now. It's really going to be a matter of what the reaction is around the world.

WILLIAMS: Well, but I think the confirmation also was going to be very sticky in a year in which there's lots of political turbulence on the -- in the forecast for President Trump. Dana Perino.

BAIER: I mean, think of --

WILLIAMS: I'm sorry.

BAIER: -- the confirmation, Bill Barr.

WILLIAMS: Right.

BAIER: And then you're going to have this defense secretary confirmation. And we don't know what else.

PERINO: At least -- the good news is for the administration on the nominations front and confirmations, that they won those Senate seats for the Republicans, won the Senate seats. So the president will probably be able to get those done pretty quickly.

BAIER: Exactly.

PERINO: But it does take some time.

BAIER: Yes, and not only that, but they also changed a couple of those Republican seats that may have been no votes or maybe votes. And they're much more aligned with the president.

PERINO: Also, Bret do you hear that there are other cabinet resignations coming soon or firings or whatever we're calling these?

BAIER: You know, there's always this circle out there about who's going next and what's going to happen. And after any midterm election, there's usually a changeover, as you well know. And we assumed that come the beginning of the year, there might be some change.

I talked to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. We're not going to run that tonight, because there's just a little breaking news. We'll run that tomorrow. But that position will be open, as well.

WILLIAMS: Bret, thanks so much. Again, we really appreciate the political perspective on this.

There's more information now, coming from the White House. John Roberts is there with the latest -- John.

ROBERTS: You know, I think, too, Bret was reading from that letter that Secretary Mattis submitted to the president. And some of the key elements of that in terms of having the right to have a secretary whose views are better aligned with yours.

If we look at some of the other paragraphs in this letter, we get an idea where those views may have been divergent. When Secretary Mattis writes, "One core belief I've always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and cooperative system of alliances and partnerships. While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies."

President Trump has been very critical of a number of our allies, Germany in particular, in his dealings with NATO countries, browbeating them to come up to their commitment of 2 percent for NATO.

But more so than that, sometimes being somewhat denigrating to some of our allies.

Also, Mattis writes, quote, "Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model, getting veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic, and security decisions to promote their interests at the expense of their neighbors."

I mean, here's another area of divergence, because many believe that President Trump has not been tough enough on Russia, particularly on this issue of Crimea, though President Trump will be the first one to tell you he's been tougher on Russia than any other president when it comes to expulsion of diplomats, sanctions, et cetera.

But there's a couple of areas there where I see, you know, clear lines of delineation between Mattis's thinking and the president's thinking. And that probably added to the friction that Mattis felt was growing to a point where it was time for them to leave and for the president to get somebody else in that position whose views were more clearly aligned with those of the president.

WILLIAMS: John, terrific job. Thanks again.

Once again, for all of you tuning in, what we know now is that James Mattis, the defense secretary, is leaving. He will be leaving in February. This news came in the form of a tweet from President Trump a day after the president announced the withdrawal of troops from Syria. And we have had reporting and confirmed yard FOX News that troops are going to be withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Please stay with us for more. "The Five" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUTFELD: FOX News alert -- what are you doing? OH, so we're doing a FOX News alert for "One More Thing." You guys are on -- this is the holiday crew.

WILLIAMS: All right.

PERINO: Yes, but "One More Thing" deserves a FOX News alert.

GUTFELD: Let's do another hour on staffing changes. Why don't we do another hour on staffing changes? Juan, go ahead.

WILLIAMS: All right. So it's a marshmallow world in the winter. You know that song. But what if it's also an ice-cream winter wonderland? That's what happened to me today. Last week I said this on the show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUTFELD: "If you are invited to someone's house for dinner, what do you bring?" Juan.

WILLIAMS: Ice cream.

GUTFELD: Ice cream, interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?

WILLIAMS: A lot of people don't have ice cream.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Well, you know what? We're going to --

GUTFELD: You guys.

WILLIAMS: I've got some free ice cream. But let's go back to Mattis here. Let's talk about what's going on with the general. Greg.

GUTFELD: What's going on? I'm going to tell you what's going on. I am not a fan of arm-chairing staff changes. I think staffing turbulence is far preferable to actual turbulence. I don't see this as political turbulence. The world is a peaceful -- more peaceful and more prosperous in the last couple of years than it has been.

So I take this with just another staff change. He did great work for two years. That's how I feel about it, and I just gave up a really good "One More Thing."

WILLIAMS: We're going to get to your "One More Thing" tomorrow.

GUTFELD: Yes.

WILLIAMS: I can't wait. Dana.

PERINO: I do think personnel is policy decisions, as well. And so I think that obviously, this was -- when President Trump -- people had -- were nervous, what is this presidency going to be like? And Secretary Mattis was one of the generals they were like, he is amazing. That he's going to work for President Trump; has done terrific work.

I admire him for saying in his letter, like, "We have these differences. You deserve somebody who's more in line with your thinking," and he's willing to step down for that. There's not enough people in Washington who stick up for their principles. And so I admire him.

WILLIAMS: You know, but that line clearly is capturing attention in Washington, Dana, that he spoke about divergent views.

PERINO: But that's OK.

GUTFELD: So what? I disagree with every boss I've ever had, and I've been fired three times.

PERINO: Don't push it.

WILLIAMS: Yes, but the politics.

GUTFELD: Disagreeing right now.

CHAFFETZ: The show's not over yet.

WILLIAMS: Jason, the normal politics would be, you know, "Glad to serve. You're a great president," but he didn't say that.

CHAFFETZ: Well, you know, look, he has served for four decades. You don't serve your country for 40 years in the Marines, serving overseas. He has given it all. I have the greatest respect for this man.

And I think he has won the hearts and minds of people not only in the United States and in the military but our military partners across the world.

And the president has got his hands full, because not only does he have, you know, an attorney general he's got to get through a confirmation fight. He's going to have to get through the interior secretary, with Ryan Zinke leaving, who was very loyal to President Trump. And now a defense secretary.

So, you know, as a Republican I'm just glad that the Senate is still in Republican hands and that they can get through these fights. But these people have to run the gauntlet. I don't know that you can get somebody in place by the end of February. I hope so. And I hope the president has somebody who's, you know, ready to go out of the shoot. A lot of good members of the military that have served. There are good members in the Senate. I'd be shocked if Lindsey Graham does this. I don't think Lindsey Graham wants to do this. I think he wants to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Tom Cotton, I think is -- obviously would be a strong choice, a real hawk and somebody who's, you know, served ably in the military. There are people in the House that also have done that. I mean, that's really where we got Mike Pompeo.

I think the president respects people in the military, and there's a lot of good people to choose from.

BOOTHE: I was -- I was going to say, I was kind of laughing there for a second, because you were talking about the ice cream and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

But on a serious note, I mean, look, we've already established Republicans are going to have a 53-seat majority in the Senate, so President Trump will likely be able to see these nominees through and get them confirmed. So that shouldn't be too much of a trouble.

But I do think that, with the withdrawal from Syria and, you know, this news with North Korea saying that they're not going to denuclearize unless we remove the nuclear threat, and just some of these other things that are coming down the pipeline from a national security standpoint, it does complicate the landscape a little bit or at least gives more attention to who he ends up nominating and also General Mattis stepping aside and the reasons he's stepping aside, as well. So I think that's why --

WILLIAMS: What do you think, Lisa, of the question of, you know, the fact that Republicans and the president have said he's a military guy, and now you see someone so widely expect -- respected by the military saying, "I'm gone"?

BOOTHE: Well, I think President Trump respects the military. And I don't think it devalues that because General Mattis is stepping aside. But I do think -- look, General Mattis earned so much respect from both the left and the right, as well as military men and women. So it's just sad to see him go. Who doesn't respect him?

GUTFELD: Set -- set your DVRs. Never miss an episode of "The Five." "Special Report" is up next.

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