Their fingerprints can increasingly be seen on the president’s early national security moves, from the reworking of his controversial refugee and immigration order to the walking back of his talk of a “military operation” for deportations to his search for a national security adviser after the first was ousted.
All three are notable for their independence from Trump. None had a prior relationship with him but all have long histories with each other…
Mattis and Kelly are said to have been deeply frustrated with the rollout of Trump’s refugee and immigration ban and made clear to associates that they were not involved in crafting the directive. Both moved swiftly to address gaps in the measure, with Mattis asking that Iraqis who helped U.S. troops be exempt and Kelly clarifying that green card holders would not be affected.
For the first few weeks after the inauguration, Mattis and Kelly agreed that one of them should remain in the United States to keep tabs on the orders rapidly firing out of the White House, according to a person familiar with the discussions.