“James Mattis accuses Trump of abusing his powers in searing op-ed”
June 3, 2020 | 8:16pm | Updated June 3, 2020 | 8:51pm
“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 the op-ed published by The Atlantic on Wednesday.
“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,” he continued.
Mattis, a decorated Marine general who resigned as defense secretary in December 2018 in protest of Trump’s Syria policy, said he was horrified by the show of force outside the White House on Monday evening — calling it an abuse of power.
Mattis, whose nickname is “Mad Dog,” previously declined to speak out against Trump, saying he wanted to be silent while his former boss remained in office, making the stinging criticism all the more notable.
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis wrote, announcing he supported the “wholesome and unifying” demands of demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd across the nation this week.
“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” he continued.
“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.”
The decorated soldier called on Americans to reject Trump’s calls for cities to be “dominated” by the National Guard — a sentiment shared by current Defense Secretary Mark Esper who announced earlier Wednesday that he opposed the use of military to arrest protests and violence.
Mattis accused Trump of abusing the powers of his office after forces fired smoke cannisters and pepper balls on protesters at Lafayette Park outside the White House on Monday evening.
“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.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Wednesday that the order to clear protesters came from Attorney General William Barr, and not the president.
Mattis also went on to criticize Esper and other administration officials, writing, “We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate.’ At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors.
“Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict– a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.”
And he goes so far as to mention Nazi ideology in his rebuke of the president.
“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.
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