Although reports have swirled since his departure from the Trump administration that former Secretary of Defense James Mattis did not see eye-to-eye with the president, he has remained reluctant to openly criticize the commander in chief.
That all changed this week, though, when Mattis lashed out at Donald Trump in a public statement denouncing the response to ongoing civil unrest across the nation.
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” he wrote in comments published on Wednesday, according to the Washington Examiner.
“A wholesome and unifying demand”
Mattis cited the phrase “Equal Justice Under Law,” which is carved into the U.S. Supreme Court building, in expressing support for those protesting against racial inequality and police brutality.
“This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding,” he said, according to The Hill. “It is a wholesome and unifying demand — one that all of us should be able to get behind.”
Instead of getting “distracted by a small number of lawbreakers,” Mattis encouraged Americans to unite behind a common cause.
“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 continued.
“We can unite without him”
Setting his sights on the White House, Mattis went on to accuse Trump of favoring division over unity.
“We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort,” he wrote, according to the Examiner. “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.”
Specifically referencing the president’s increasingly militaristic rhetoric, Mattis condemned the threat to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy U.S. military troops on American soil in response to destructive demonstrations. Mattis said such a move “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.”
Some Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, used the opportunity to express their agreement with Mattis’ assessment. For his part, Trump responded with a string of tweets on Thursday aimed at his former Defense secretary.
Mattis is not the first former Trump adviser to speak out against him after parting ways with the administration. But while his words are sure to resonate among those who have grown increasingly frustrated with the president, loyal supporters are likely to see it as little more than sour grapes.