'He got nasty': Former White House chief of staff rips Trump and defends James Mattis
After resigning from his position as secretary of Defense in December 2018, Gen. James Mattis was reluctant to criticize President Donald Trump. But that changed this week during the George Floyd protests when Mattis, in comments published by The Atlantic, called Trump out for being so divisive.
As Mattis's comments stoke both praise and backlash, former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly came out on Thursday to defend the former Pentagon chief.
Mattis disagreed with Trump’s threat to use military force during the demonstrations. And he asserted: “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.”
Trump responded by lambasting Mattis on Twitter, writing: “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. 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!”
(Trump's claim about the nickname is, as it happens, laughably wrong.)
Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the wor… https://t.co/Ft2wEvNT8q— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1591232525.0
Kelly, in comments to the Washington Post, fact-checked Trump’s claim that he fired Mattis.
“The president did not fire him,” Kelly noted. “He did not ask for his resignation. The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused. The president tweeted a very positive tweet about Jim until he started to see on Fox News their interpretation of his letter. Then he got nasty. Jim Mattis is a honorable man.”
Kelly has previously defended military figures who have drawn Trump's ire, such as key impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.