Mattis and Mueller battle Trump and Putin

Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Most VA workers find racism 'moderate to serious problem' at facilities l Trump advisers were wary of talking military options over fears he'd accidentally start war Trump advisers were wary of talking military options over fears he'd accidentally start war: report Trump prizes loyalty over competence — we are seeing the results MORE and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE are decorated war heroes who served our country courageously in the United States Marine Corps. Both attained high positions, and their integrity, professionalism and leadership is admired by those who have worked with them.

They are devout believers in American and Western democracy who are now engaged in epic battles with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump.


Throughout my years in Washington, I have seen truth-tellers and liars, heroes and bums, in high places. In my view, Mattis and Mueller are the finest of the finest, the noblest of the noble, and I have repeatedly supported both. 

I would urge everyone to read in full the letter of resignation in protest from Mattis, to understand the warning he issued and why it must be heeded to defend the ideals and security of America.

Mattis wrote that we should be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to nations that are hostile to us, including Russia and China, which seek a world where democracy is destroyed and authoritarian regimes are imposed on all.

He wrote that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to our network of alliances with democratic nations and peoples, which deserve the utmost respect for sharing our democratic cause and joining the battles we must sometimes wage to defend it. 

Mattis, like so many principled liberals and conservatives, knows there is something dangerously wrong when the president sometimes treats our friends as enemies and our enemies as friends. 

While Mattis supports the defense of freedom using every weapon in our arsenal, from military strength to creative diplomacy to foreign aid that feeds the hungry, Mueller supports the defense of democracy from hostile foreign attack using the great weapons of American justice and the rule of law. 

After the resignation of Defense Secretary Mattis, done in a way that dramatized his profound disagreements with critical policies pursued by President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE, there is great concern throughout our armed forces and from those who lead and those who wear the uniform of America’s worldwide allies in defense of democracy.

It is no coincidence that while Mattis calls for unity among allies against the threat posed by Russia and China, Mueller is under attack not only from Trump and his allies but from Putin and his intelligence services, according to a new report from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

It is alarming that Trump impulsively ordered American troops to be withdrawn from Syria, first without consulting Congress or our military leaders and then by showing contempt for their views when they were offered.   

The big winners of this Syrian withdrawal would be Russia, Iran, Turkey and ISIS terrorists — all of which are involved in some form of investigation now underway. It is not too late to prevent this disaster for American interests and our allies, including the Kurds, who have courageously fought with us, moderates throughout the Middle East and both conservative and liberal supporters in Israel.

The Mattis resignation in protest of the policies of Trump, along with the aggressive campaign being waged against Mueller and his special counsel investigation of Russia, create ominous feelings throughout Washington that engulf both political parties at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

At the same time, there are ominous feelings of concern on Wall Street about the potential slowing of the world economy, made worse by concerns about our government in Washington, that have created volatility and turbulence in markets.

It is ominous to observers that Mattis, who has long earned extraordinary respect from both parties in Congress and throughout American and allied military services, could no longer serve in his post with honor, that he no longer had the influence to work from within to set things right, and that he felt compelled to resign in a way designed to make his deep concerns publicly known to the country as a whole.


Regarding Mueller, it is ominous that the attacks against him have escalated to a level of frenzy and rage from a president who fired his previous attorney general for protecting the investigation from political influence, named an acting attorney general who has publicly expressed hostility toward the investigation and has now nominated for attorney general a man who appeared to campaign for the job by advertising his hostility to the Mueller investigation.

Mattis has spent a lifetime protecting America from adversaries and enemies, including Russia, and felt compelled to resign. Mueller is pursuing an investigation into Russian crimes against America and may soon be fired. Two great men, one great cause: They're public servants defending democracy, one who resigned while the other is under attack. 

Let's hope that the Mattis resignation in protest ultimately serves the cause of democracy, if his warning is heeded, and that both parties in Congress rise like lions in defense of Mueller at this critical moment in history.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.