Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis Condemns Trump's Militarized Response to Protests

Jim Mattis Criticizes Donald Trump
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In the past, Mattis has chosen to remain silent on Trump.

Former defense secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned more than a year ago after disagreeing with President Trump's Syria policies, spoke out Wednesday about the White House’s response to national protests and riots across the country, condemning Trump in particular for his military response

In the past, Mattis has chosen to remain silent on Trump, often declining to speak because Trump is still in office, but this week he said he was “angry and appalled” about how events in the country have been unfolding. 

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people— does not even pretend to try,” Mattis wrote in a statement. “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. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society.”

On Monday, peaceful protesters gathered near the White House at the plaza between St. John's Church and Lafayette Park to demand justice for George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police in a moment captured on video, and speak out against police brutality. They were then tear gassed for initially what seemed like no apparent reason. 

Then, Trump took a walk in the park where protesters had been gathered to the Episcopal church as reporters followed and stopped to take a photo-op with a bible in hand. 

Mattis called out the move in his statement as a violation of the constitution.

“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Mattis wrote. “Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”

He added that we need to reject what he called “militarizing our response” to protests in the United States. 

“We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers,” he said, speaking of people who have been looting in the wake of the national protests. “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.”

He also asked that American’s band together without Trump.

Mattis called on Americans to unite without Trump. “This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children,” he wrote.

The president was not happy with the statement, quickly taking to Twitter to respond to it and criticize Mattis. 

“Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General,” Trump wrote. “I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was ‘Chaos,’ which I didn’t like, & changed to ‘Mad Dog’…"

He added that he “didn’t like” Mattis’ leadership or “much else about him.” “Glad he is gone,” Trump wrote. 

Mattis gave two months' notice that he would be resigning as defense secretary in protest over Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria. He announced on Dec. 20, 2018, that he would be stepping down in February 2019. “General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction,” Trump tweeted then. “I greatly thank Jim for his service!”

Trump three days later said he was bringing in a replacement Jan. 1, 2019.

Obama didn’t fire Mattis, either. Mattis served as head of the military’s Central Command in the Obama administration. He departed a few months earlier than expected in 2013, in part because of disagreements over Iran, the New York Times reported.