22:07 GMT26 September 2020
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    The White House accused General James Mattis of being out of touch with the reality in US cities on Thursday, after the former secretary of defence claimed Trump was the first president in his lifetime seemingly deliberately trying to divide Americans amid the George Floyd protests.

    Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is “struggling” with whether or not to support Trump in his 2020 reelection bid, describing recent comments by former secretary of defence James Mattis about the president’s divisive leadership as “true, and honest, and necessary and overdue.”

    “Perhaps we’re getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally, and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up,” Murkowski said, speaking to reporters in Washington on Thursday. “I am struggling with it. I have struggled with it for a long time,” she added, when asked whether she will support Trump in his bid for reelection.

    “He is our duly elected president. I will continue to work with him…But I think right now as we are all struggling to find ways to express the words that need to be expressed appropriately,” the senator noted.

    Murkowski, who previously called on Trump to drop out of the presidential race in October 2016, and begrudgingly voted against convicting him at his Ukrainegate impeachment trial in February, made peace with him to remain in line with the position of her party.

    Republican Utah Senator Mitt Romney, another prominent Trump critic from the right, agreed with Murkowski regarding the Trump-Mattis debate, describing the general’s comments as “stunning and powerful.”

    Kentucky Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a former Never-Trumper who Trump called an “idiot” and a “stiff” during the 2016 campaign, defended the president on Thursday, accusing Mattis of “missing the fact that the liberal media has taken every event in the last three and a half years and laid it at the president’s feet…I’m not saying [Trump]’s blameless, but I am saying that you’re buying into a narrative that I think is quite frankly unfair,” Graham suggested.

    Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse, another frequent Trump critic, also praised Mattis, saying there was “a fundamental -a constitutional right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the word of God as a political prop.”

    In his remarks to The Atlantic on Wednesday, Mattis accused Trump of being “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people,” adding that he never dreamed that US troops taking an oath to defend the Constitution “would be ordered…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.”

    Trump walked out of the White House and to St. John’s Episcopal Church, a renowned 200+ year old Washington landmark which sustained fire damage in protests, on Monday evening, holding up a Bible for several minutes and taking pictures with staff near the Church. The photo op was preceded by military police riding into the nearby Lafayette Park to clear peaceful protesters using tear gas and flash-bang grenades.

    U.S. President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he stands in front of St. John's Episcopal Church across from the White House after walking there for a photo opportunity during ongoing protests over racial inequality in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, outside the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2020
    © REUTERS / Tom Brenner
    U.S. President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he stands in front of St. John's Episcopal Church across from the White House after walking there for a photo opportunity during ongoing protests over racial inequality in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, outside the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2020

    The president called on law enforcement to get “tough” on violent protesters on Twitter on Wednesday amid reports that they were throwing Molotov cocktails at police. On Thursday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley warned that Trump has the right to invoke the Insurrection Act, a legal measure which would enable him to deploy US military and National Guard to suppress acts of civil disorder, insurrection or rebellion.

    Cities across America ignited in chaos last week after a white Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, an African American man, in broad daylight by chocking his neck by the knee while he lay subdued on the ground in handcuffs. Protests included hundreds of non-violent anti-racism and anti-police violence events, but some have also degenerated into violence, looting and mass arson, prompting local authorities to announce a state of emergency and curfews, and many governors to activate the National Guard. Authorities have made thousands of arrests, with dozens of police and protesters injured and at least 16 people killed in the violence.

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