Trump calls Mattis 'overrated' after ex-Defense secretary issues scathing rebuke

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE on Wednesday sharply criticized James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump prizes loyalty over competence — we are seeing the results Lawmakers torch Trump plan to pull 11,900 troops from Germany Are US-Japan relations on the rocks? MORE after the former Defense secretary broke his silence and condemned the president’s handling of nationwide protests in a fiery statement.

Trump called Mattis the “world’s most overrated general” and swiped at his leadership capabilities, claiming that the retired four-star Marine general’s strength was not his military prowess “but rather personal public relations.”  

“Probably the only thing Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Tuesday's primaries Obama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Red flags fly high, but Trump ignores them MORE & 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 it. His nickname was ‘Chaos’, which I didn’t like, & changed to ‘Mad Dog,’” the president tweeted Wednesday evening. 

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“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 continued.

The rebuke came just hours after the former Trump administration official tore into the president in a statement in The Atlantic, accusing the him of dividing the nation and ordering the U.S. military to violate the constitutional rights of Americans protesting the death of George Floyd in police custody and, more widely, police brutality and racial inequality.

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“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. “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.” 

Mattis, who also served in the Defense Department under former President Obama, was Trump’s first defense secretary and resigned in December 2018 after clashing with the president over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Mattis was widely liked among members of Congress of both parties and Republicans expressed regret over his ouster at the time. 

Mattis has kept a low profile following his exit from the administration and has avoided criticizing Trump, making Wednesday’s public statement all the more striking.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called the statement "little more than a self-promotional stunt to appease the DC elite."

"President @realDonaldTrump is the law and order President that has restored peace to our nation’s streets. Mattis’ small words pale in comparison to @POTUS’ strong action," she tweeted.

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His criticism came after Trump threatened to deploy U.S. troops to cities and states that do not sufficiently quell the violence that has accompanied the peaceful protests following Floyd’s death. A significant National Guard and law enforcement presence has descended on the Washington, D.C., area in order to control protests, and the Trump administration has ordered active-duty troops on standby. 

On Monday evening, law enforcement forcibly removed protesters from Lafayette Square outside the White House ahead of a 7 p.m. citywide curfew, just before Trump walked from the White House across the park to take part in a photo opportunity at St. John’s Church, which had been briefly set on fire by demonstrators Sunday evening.

Trump and his administration have been widely criticized for events that took place on Monday. 

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