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Ex-Defense Secretary Mattis excoriates Trump, says president 'tries to divide us'

Mattis also said the U.S. has experienced a three-year dearth of "mature leadership"

Published: June 3, 2020 7:13pm

Updated: June 4, 2020 3:35pm

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday issued a scathing rebuke of President Trump in which he said the current commander in chief "tries to divide us."

Mattis, who resigned Pentagon chief in 2018, said in a statement published by The Atlantic that the nation has experienced "three years without mature leadership."

"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. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society," Mattis said.

Protests and civil unrest have swept the nation in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minnesota with some people engaging in lawless activities including looting and arson. 

Mattis expressed his support for protestors who he said are seeking equal justice, and said that people should "not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers." 

"I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words 'Equal Justice Under Law' are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding," Mattis wrote. "We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation."

The former Defense Secretary condemned the concept of using the nation's military to address the protests. Trump has discussed using the military to quell civil unrest around the country.

"We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law," he said.

"Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them," he added.

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