Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly defended former US Defence Secretary James Mattis after the latter was criticized by US President Donald Trump. The president falsely claimed to have “had the honor” of firing “the world’s most overrated General”.
“The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, said on Thursday, cited by The Washington Post.
Mattis resigned from his office as US Defence Secretary in late 2018 after disagreeing with Trump on the latter's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.
Kelly, who also left his post as chief of staff at the Trump administration in 2018, noted that Trump has “clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused”.
“The president tweeted a very positive tweet about Jim until he started to see on Fox News their interpretation of his [resignation] letter. Then he got nasty. Jim Mattis is an honorable man,” Kelly said, according to the outlet.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted text attacks against the former Pentagon chief, claiming that Mattis did not resign, suggesting instead that the president “asked for his letter of resignation”. Trump also ridiculed Mattis as “the most overrated General”.
“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 tweeted recently regarding Mattis.
Trump’s tweets follow a statement by the former top defence official, in which he accused the president of threatening the US Constitution, noting that Trump is the first US leader in Mattis's lifetime who has attempted to divide the nation, instead of uniting.
Mattis’s comments come in the wake of ongoing demonstrations in every state and most cities in the US over the murder of an African-American resident of Minneapolis named George Floyd by white police officers on 25 May.
“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. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership,” Mattis said in a statement on Wednesday.
The former Pentagon chief also criticized Trump’s recent decision to use the US military in quelling ongoing nationwide protests, a move that has been criticized by many, with Defence Secretary Mark Esper indicating that active-duty troops “should only be used as a matter of last resort”.