In a stunning public rebuke of the president, former Defense Secretary James Mattis blasted President Donald Trump for his use of force on protesters, Mattis told Atlantic on Wednesday.
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis wrote to the Atlantic.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try,” Trump’s first Defense secretary said. “Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
Mattis’ bona fides led to a smooth confirmation as Defense Secretary, getting confirmed by a 98-1 vote in the Senate in 2017. But Mattis’ tenure concluded in late 2018 with a disagreement with Trump over the handling of tensions with Syria.
Mattis, however, had remained silent in any criticism of Trump until Wednesday.
“The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court,” Mattis told the Atlantic. “This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.”
Mattis' censure of the president comes two days after Trump used military police, the Secret Service and US Park Police to clear protesters from a public square in Washington to allow Trump a photo op in front of an charred church.
Trump also beseeched governors to call upon military backup to bring “law and order” amid the unrest following George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minnesota. Trump said if governors didn’t activate troops, the president would send them anyway, despite a 19th century law that prohibits US troops to conduct domestic law enforcement at the behest of the federal government.
While not endorsing Trump’s opponent in this coming general election Joe Biden, Mattis said, “We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s ‘better angels,’ and listen to them, as we work to unite.”
Trump responded late Wednesday to Mattis via Twitter.
"Probably the only thing Barack Obama and I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General," Trump tweeted. "I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about. His nickname was “Chaos”, which I didn’t like, & changed it to “Mad Dog”
"His primary strength was not military, but rather personal public relations. I gave him a new life, things to do, and battles to win, but he seldom “brought home the bacon”. I didn’t like his “leadership” style or much else about him, and many others agree. Glad he is gone!"
To read Mattis’ full op-ed, click