June 5, 2020
In a story picked up by NBC News, on June 3, former Defense Secretary James Mattis slammed President Donald Trump’s response to the protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police—saying the POTUS “tries to divide us” while calling his “bizarre photo op” in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church “an abuse of executive authority.”
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis wrote in a statement published by The Atlantic.
“Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was “Divide and Conquer.” Our American answer is “In Union there is Strength.”‘ We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics,” Mattis wrote.
In the stunning rebuke of his former boss, Mattis, a retired general, said he’d promised to defend the Constitution when he was sworn into the Marine Corps “some 50 years ago,” NBC News reported.
“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,” Mattis wrote, referring to Monday night’s federal show of force to clear protesters from the front of the White House.
After they were cleared, Trump walked across Lafayette Square with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and others to pose for a picture with a Bible in front of the church, which had been damaged in a riot Sunday night. The photo opportunity came minutes after Trump announced that he was prepared to call in the military to handle unruly protesters around the country.
“We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution,” Mattis wrote in The Atlantic.
“We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose,” wrote Mattis, whom Trump would often refer to as “Mad Dog,” a nickname Mattis didn’t like.
Trump, he said, is a divider, and the country is “witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort.”
“We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens,” he wrote.
Research contact: @NBCNews