President Trump’s former chief of staff Gen. John Kelly said he agreed with former Defense Secretary James Mattis when he released a statement attacking the president’s leadership and describing Trump as a threat to the Constitution.
“I think we need to look harder at who we elect,” Kelly said during a Friday interview with former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.
“I think we should start — all of us, regardless of what our views are on politics, I think we should look at people that are running for office and put them through the filter — what is their character like? What are their ethics? Are they willing, if they’re elected, to represent all of their constituents, not just the base, but all of their constituents? And then look at the politics.”
Some of his comments bore resemblance to the statement from Mattis, which was published by The Atlantic on Wednesday.
“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 said. “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 also suggested that Trump disrespected the Constitution in the way he responded to ongoing protests surrounding George Floyd’s death.
In the immediate aftermath of Mattis’ comments, Trump fired back by claiming he had the “honor of firing” Mattis — something Kelly disputed in comments to The Washington Post. “The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly reportedly said.
When asked about Mattis’ concern for the country, Kelly told Scaramucci that he felt the same.
“I agree with him. I think we need to step back from the politics … the separation of powers is very, very, very important. No president ever is a dictator or a king — just like the courts have to work with the other two branches, that the Congress has got oversight that they must, must, must, execute,” he said.
Mattis had indicated that Trump was overstepping his authority with his decision to deploy the military to counter violent protests.
“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate,'” he said, referring to Trump’s direction to governors during a conference call.
“At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict — a false conflict — between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.”
On Thursday, Trump blasted Kelly over his defense of Mattis. “John Kelly didn’t know I was going to fire James Mattis, nor did he have any knowledge of my asking for a letter of resignation. Why would I tell him, he was not … in my inner circle, was totally exhausted by the job, and in the end just slinked into obscurity. They all want to come back for a piece of the limelight,” he said in two separate tweets.