- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis — a member of a group President Trump once described as “my generals” — eviscerated the commander in chief Wednesday, saying the U.S. has suffered through “three years without mature leadership” and is dealing with a president who actively tries to divide the American people.

In a lengthy, stunningly blunt statement to The Atlantic, Mr. Mattis said that “militarizing” the federal response to protests across the country is dangerous and wrong, and erodes public trust in the armed forces. Massive demonstrations have taken place following the death last week of George Floyd, a black man, during a confrontation with Minneapolis police.

While Mr. Mattis appealed for peaceful protests and systemic changes to the country, he pulled no punches when describing his former boss.

“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,” he warned.

“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. 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,” Mr. Mattis wrote.

Mr. Mattis resigned in late 2018 after clashing with the president over U.S. policy in Syria.

In his statement Wednesday, Mr. Mattis took specific aim at the president’s actions earlier this week. Law enforcement officials aggressively disrupted a protest in front of the White House on Monday night to clear a path so Mr. Trump could walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he took photos with other top administration officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. 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 said.

“We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Park. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution,” Mr. Mattis added.

Last year, Mr. Trump reportedly dismissed Mr. Mattis as “the world’s most overrated general” during a meeting with lawmakers, underscoring the falling out that had taken place between them.

Mr. Esper also broke with the president on Wednesday, opposing Mr. Trump’s plan to invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy active-duty forces to American cities.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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