WASHINGTON – Former Defense Secretary James Mattis denounced President Donald Trump Wednesday in an extraordinary statement that hammered his former boss as a threat to American democracy.
Trump is needlessly dividing the country and "militarizing" America's response to the protests, Mattis wrote in a statement published by The Atlantic magazine.
"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 wrote.
"We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort," he continued. "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."
Mattis took particular aim at the White House's decision on Monday to forcibly clear protesters from a park in front of the White House, so that Trump could walk across the street and pose with a Bible in front of a historic church, saying it was an abuse of power.
Noting his own oath to uphold the Constitution when he first joined the military, Mattis wrote: "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 expressed hope that the United States would emerge from this wrenching moment stronger and more unified, holding up as heroes the grocery store cashiers, doctors, and other essential workers who have worked tirelessly to help Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Park," he said. "We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution."
The former general also offered a full-throated endorsement of the demonstrations, which have unfolded across the U.S. after George Floyd, an African American man, was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer.
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