John Kelly joins the generals' mutiny saying 'I agree' with Jim Mattis

Donald Trump’s former chief of staff John Kelly joins the generals’ mutiny saying ‘I agree’ with Jim Mattis, warning ‘the president is never a dictator’ and questioning his ‘character and ethics’

  • Retired General John Kelly, the former White House chief of staff, joined the list of high-profile military officers criticizing President Trump
  •  ‘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?,’ he said
  • He also said he agreed with retired General Jim Mattis’ criticism of Trump 
  • He’s quite a man, Jim Mattis, and for him to do that tells you where he is relative to the concern he has for our country,’ Kelly said 
  • The comments from Kelly come after Mattis, retired General John Allen and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley all spoke out against Trump
  • The former and current military leaders rebuked the president’s decision to call in active duty military to the nation’s capital in the midst of protests and riots 

John Kelly, the retired general who served as Donald Trump’s chief of staff, joined the list of high-profile military officers criticizing the president, suggesting people should at a person’s ‘character’ and ‘ethics’ before voting for them.

 ‘I think we need to look harder at who we elect. 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?’ Kelly, told Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director, during a live-streamed interview for a conference.

‘The separation of powers is very very important,’ he said. ‘No president ever is a dictator or a king.’ 

Retired General John Kelly joined the list of high-profile military officers criticizing President Trump

John Kelly had served as President Trump’s chief of staff and suggested people should at a person’s ‘character’ and ‘ethics’ before voting for them

Kelly also said he agreed with Jim Mattis, the former defense secretary and retired general who rebuked Trump for dividing the country instead of bringing people together.

‘I agree with him,’ Kelly said.

‘There is a concern, I think an awful big concern, that the partisanship has gotten out of hand, the tribal thing has gotten out of hand,’ he noted. ‘He’s quite a man, Jim Mattis, and for him to do that tells you where he is relative to the concern he has for our country.’ 

Kelly defended Trump’s former defense secretary on Thursday after Mattis publicly criticized the president’s handling of the nationwide protests.

He also shot down Trump’s claim that he fired Mattis in 2018.

‘The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,’ Kelly asserted in a Washington Post interview Thursday afternoon. ‘The president 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 letter. Then he got nasty. Jim Mattis is an honorable man,’ Kelly said.

Trump shot back Thursday night in a pair of tweets. 

 ‘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 away into obscurity. They all want to come back for a piece of the limelight!,’ the president wrote.

Kelly, meanwhile, didn’t sound positive about his time as White House chief of staff, where he tried to bring some military order and discipline to the West Wing. 

‘He’ll either fire you and try to find a lackey who will tell you what he wants to hear, or will push so hard that you decide to leave,’ he told Scaramucci of Trump.

Scaramucci – ‘the Mooch’ – spent 10 days as White House director of communications, which ended in Kelly firing him, and has now become a resolute Republican critic of the president.

Mattis submitted his resignation in late December 2018, and stayed on until after the New Year, amid reports of rising tensions between the Defense secretary and president.

Although Mattis had remained largely silent about his former boss, on Wednesday he released a statement criticizing Trump’s handling of protests that have erupted across the country following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer.

Mattis accused Trump of deliberately trying to divide Americans and likened his actions to the rhetoric of Nazis to ‘divide and conquer.’

Who’s going next? All six of these four-star Marine generals are now retired. Jim Mattis (standing, left) has called Donald Trump a danger to the Constitution; John Kelly (seated, left), called Trump’s attack on Mattis ‘confused’ and nasty’; John Allen (second right) accused Trump of trying to plunge the U.S. into ‘illiberalism’; which leaves Joe Dunford, Trump’s first chairman of the joint chiefs (seated, second from left); James Amos (standing, right); and John Paxton (right) who have not spoken out


General John Kelly is the latest retired general to speak out against the president in an interview with Anthony Scaramucci, who had a short 10-day stint as Trump’s director of communications

 

Brutal fact check: John Kelly called Donald Trump’s claim he fired Jim Mattis ‘confused’ and his tone when Mattis left ‘nasty’

‘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,’ Mattis wrote in a statement first published by the Atlantic.

Other generals, including fired four-star Marine Corps General John Allen and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, also spoke out against the president’s actions – especially in regards to bringing in active duty military to the nation’s capital.

Martin Dempsey, the former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, added his voice to the criticism in an interview with NPR.  

‘The idea that the military would be called in to dominate and to suppress what, for the most part, were peaceful protests — admittedly, where some had opportunistically turned them violent — and that the military would somehow come in and calm that situation was very dangerous to me,’ he said.

Kelly has been a consistent defender of Mattis.

Trump was quick to fire back at his former defense secretary in a two-part tweet laced with inaccuracies.

‘Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it,’ Trump tweeted Wednesday evening.

‘His nickname was ‘Chaos’, which I didn’t like, & changed to ‘Mad Dog,’ Trump added.

While Trump claimed that he fired Mattis, the general had submitted his resignation after he disagreed with Trump’s decision to pull US forces out of Syria.

His military call sign was ‘Chaos’ which stands for ‘Colonel Has Another Outstanding Suggestion’. He was given his nickname ‘Mad Dog’, which Mattis reportedly does not like, years before Trump came into office.

‘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 added.

Mattis’ op-ed was the first time ever that he openly and intently directed criticism at his former boss.

Milley also put himself at odds with President Trump in a Thursday memo telling troops to ‘defend the Constitution.’

In the memo he also asserted that the National Guard was not under federal control as Trump demands governors activate the reservist unit in their states.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a letter to top military leaders that armed forces will continue to protect Americans’ right to ‘freedom of speech and peaceful assembly,’ as the president has called in troops to defend Washington, D.C.

‘We all committed our lives to the idea that is America,’ Milley hand-wrote in as an addition to the bottom of the letter. ‘We will stay true to that and the American people.’ 

The letter represented an extraordinary public statement from the most senior U.S. military officer and was clearly directed at the Commander-in-Chief.

Coming after the words of Mattis, and two other former chairmen of the joint chiefs, it suggested serious misgivings by the military about Trump himself.

Milley’s attempt to distance himself from the president comes as the general was recently rebuked by retired generals after he marched out of the White House as part of Trump’s entourage for a photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church while dressed in his combat uniform.

Some asserted if he was going to participate in the stunt, he should have worn his service or greens uniform.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper defended Milley’s uniform choice, saying it was ‘appropriate,’ after a series of former military leaders voiced anger at both men’s conduct and warned they were politicizing the military.  

Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Arkansas, defended Mattis’s statement was ‘honest and necessary and overdue.’ 

When asked if she can still show support for the president, she said: ‘I’m struggling with it.’

Despite the president insisting that a ‘show of force’ must be exhibited in Washington, D.C. to quell rioters and violent protesters, the scene was much more tame Tuesday and Wednesday night than previously, with more peaceful protests taking place across the nation. In D.C., local police said there were no arrests.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley issued a public rebuke of Donald Trump  in a Thursday memo where the told troops to ‘uphold the Constitution’ as the president called the military to defend Washington D.C. against George Floyd rioters

In a handwritten note at the bottom of the memo, Milley reminded military leaders: ‘We all committed our lives to the idea that is America’ after he defended protesters’ right to assemble

Milley faced backlash from retired generals for marching out of the White House in his combat uniform rather than his service or greens uniform – meant for more formal settings like the White House or Capitol Hill

His letter came after General John Allen (left) and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (right), both retired four-star Marine generals, denounced the president’s decision to call in the U.S. Military to assist with rioters

Despite the president’s steadily increasing demand for force to quell demonstrators, Wednesday night’s protests across the country were widely peaceful, with few to no instances of violence, looting, rioting or arson, which riddled other days of protests

Retired Marine Corp four-star General John Allen lashed out at Trump in his own op-ed Wednesday claiming his actions in the midst of violent nationwide riots over the death of George Floyd are ‘shameful.’ 

Allen, who commanded the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan then was an envoy in the international effort against ISIS, insisted Trump’s presidency could be the ‘beginning of the end of American democracy.’

‘The slide of the United States into illiberalism may well have begun on June 1, 2020,’ Allen wrote in an op-ed published to ForeignPolicy.com. ‘Remember the date. It may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment.’

The retired general is referencing the Monday, June 1 outing when Trump stepped outside the White House with an entourage of Secret Service, administration officials, aides and media, walked across Lafayette Park, which was clear of protesters minutes earlier by use of tear gas and rubber bullets, and arrived at St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op with his bible.

The stunt came in the midst of days-long peaceful and violent protests across the nation over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white cop in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Memorial Day.

Milley asserted in the memo that only the National Guard, a reservist unit of the Army, is responding to the riots at the activation of governors – and not the federal government.

‘As members of the Joint Force – comprised of all races, colors, and creeds – you embody the ideals of our Constitution,’ Milley wrote in the letter the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard and Space Force and Commandants of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, as well as to the Commanders of the Combatant Commands.

Retired four-star Marine General John Allen (pictured with an Iraqi tribal leader in 2007) denounced Donald Trump’s actions in the midst of nationwide unrest, claiming his presidency could be the ‘beginning of the end of the American experiment’ 

‘Please remind all of your troops and leaders that we will uphold the values of our nation, and operate consistent with national laws and out own high standards of conduct at all times,’ he concluded.

Trump’s Senate ally Lindsey Graham accused Mattis Thursday morning of ‘buying into’ the ‘liberal media’ narrative.

‘To General Mattis, I think you’re missing something here, my friend,’ the senator from South Carolina told Fox & Friends ‘You’re missing the fact that the liberal media has taken every event in the last three and a half years and laid it at the presidency.’

‘I’m not saying he’s blameless,’ Graham continued in rare partial criticism of Trump, ‘but I am saying you’re buying into a narrative that I think is quite frankly unfair.’ 

He conceded, however, that ‘Mattis has the right to express himself because of his military service.

‘General Mattis has the right to express himself because he’s served the country over a long period of time put himself at risk for the nation,’ Graham said. ‘But the one thing I would tell General Mattis that from the time President Trump wakes up, to go to bed there’s an effort to destroy his presidency.’ 

He also called out Trump’s Monday walk from the White House, across Lafayette Park to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op with his bible, claiming: ‘The slide of the United States into illiberalism may well have begun on June 1, 2020’

‘[T]he president proclaimed himself the ‘ally of peaceful protesters.’ But, at that very moment, just a few hundred feet away across Lafayette Park, fully equipped riot police and troops violently, and without provocation, set upon the peaceful demonstrators there, manhandling and beating many of them, employing flash-bangs, riot-control agents, and pepper spray throughout,’ Allen wrote

The scene in Washington, D.C. was filled with peaceful protests on Wednesday – a break from days prior

High five: Here a D.C. resident high-fives a three-year-old present at the protests as a police barricade blocks a street leading to the White House

In Atlanta, police knelt in the street with peaceful protesters

Thousands of noisy – but still peaceful – protesters also marched the streets of New York City to call for justice for George Floyd, a black man who was killed during an arrest by a white cop

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis broke his silence on Trump’s leadership and revealed he is ‘angry and appalled’ at his handling of the George Floyd protests

Utah National Guard soldiers stand on a police line as demonstrators gathered to protest the death of George Floyd in Washington D.C. on Wednesday night

Members of the DC National Guard remained on guard outside the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday after keeping watch through the night despite an easing of tensions between demonstrators and law enforcement

A man yells at soldiers at sunrise outside the White House on Thursday morning. The protests in D.C. remained peaceful throughout Wednesday and Wednesday night

Members of the D.C. National Guard gear-up after a short rest from standing guard at the Lincoln Memorial Thursday on what will be the seventh day of protests in DC over the death of George Floyd. Demonstrations remained peaceful Wednesday

Hundreds of demonstrators stayed as close to the White House as they could get as the 11pm curfew approached and continued to chant until the early hours of Thursday morning 

A soldier keeps watch at the Lincoln Memorial as thousands of peaceful demonstrators were met with a huge military presence Wednesday following a week of tenses clashes in the capital

Allen, who has also spent his life in public service, expressed in his op-ed his opposition to the president’s mobilization of the U.S. Military to ward off and quell rioters and condemned Trump’s comparison of the violent protesters ravaging cities to ‘domestic terrorists.’ 

Mostly, however, the president of the Brookings Institute – often referred to as a liberal-centrist think tank – was disappointed in the use of force to clear the way for a presidential photo-op. 

‘[T]he president proclaimed himself the ‘ally of peaceful protesters.’ But, at that very moment, just a few hundred feet away across Lafayette Park, fully equipped riot police and troops violently, and without provocation, set upon the peaceful demonstrators there, manhandling and beating many of them, employing flash-bangs, riot-control agents, and pepper spray throughout,’ Allen wrote.

On Monday, law enforcement forced peaceful demonstrators from the park ahead of Trump’s short visit to the church across Pennsylvania Avenue from the North Lawn of the White House.

They used tear gas and nonlethal rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.  

Senior defense officials told reporters the two were not aware that the Park Police and law enforcement had made a decision to clear the square or that Trump intended to visit the church.

They had been in Washington to coordinate with federal law enforcement officials but were diverted to the White House to brief Trump on military preparations, the officials said.

Administration officials privately acknowledged Monday’s events did not do the administration any justice.

Even some Republican lawmakers who are typically in sync with the president said Trump went too far in using force to clear the way for his less than five-minute visit to the church.

On Tuesday, a senior White House official said the president wanted to make the aggressive action an example for the rest of the country.

Trump pushed back against Mattis’ comments on Wednesday, claiming he is the ‘world’s most overrated general’ after the Marine veteran denounced the president’s leadership in the face of the nationwide protests.

Mattis spoke out for the first time publicly since his acrimonious December 2018 exit from the White House by blasting Trump as making a ‘mockery of the Constitution’ in a fiery statement shared Wednesday.

Although Mattis has alluded to criticism of his former boss in the past, he has never been this forthcoming with his disappointment in the president.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president and criticized Mattis as ineffectual. 

‘Former Secretary Mattis’ ‘article’ is little more than a self-promotional stunt to appease the DC elite. President Donald Trump is the law and order President that has restored peace to our nation’s streets. Mattis’ small words pale in comparison to POTUS’ strong action.’

In his statement Mattis likened Trump’s tactics of seeking to ‘divide’ the nation to that of the Nazis. 

‘Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was ‘Divide and Conquer,’ he writes. ‘Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’ We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis – confident that we are better than our politics.’ 

His statement about Trump seeking to divide the nation immediately follows. 

‘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,’ he continues.

He pointedly takes on Trump’s photo-op Monday, writing that he us ‘angry and appalled’ by the unfolding events. 

‘We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s ‘better angels,’ and listen to them, as we work to unite,’ Mattis wrote.

He called for unity and calm. ‘This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.’ 

His blistering article comes as other former military officials, including former head of the joint chiefs of staff Admiral Mike Mullen, blasted Trump for seeking to ‘politicize’ the military. 

He also blasts a comment by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, whose job is already in jeopardy, for his comment calling for governors to ‘dominate the battlespace’ in U.S. cities.

‘We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate.’ 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,’ he writes. 

‘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.’

Mattis also joined Allen in denouncing the ‘bizarre photo-up’ that Trump ordered up, as federal police backed up by the National Guard cleared away peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park. 

‘When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution,’ writes Mattis. ‘Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance 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.’

Mattis indicated when he resigned his post that he felt an obligation to keep comments to himself. ‘There is a period in which I owe my silence. It’s not eternal. It’s not going to be forever,’ he said at the time.

While he was in office, Mattis stood out among other cabinet officials for failing to shower the president with over-the-top praise at public events.

Behind the scenes, there were clashes – and Mattis even told aides he would rather ‘swallow acid’ than allow Trump to throw a $50 million ‘Victory Parade’ in the nation’s capital.  

Esper was fighting for his job Wednesday even as authorities seek to gain control of the nation’s streets – as he contradicted President Donald Trump on use of a special military authority and the Army announced a sudden reversal on a plan to start withdrawing active duty troops from around Washington.

The day featured sudden turnarounds and contradicting explanations about the photo-op that both Esper and the president joined in on Monday, with no clear plan about how regular military, National Guard forces, local police, and outside forces are coalescing to attempt to maintain order. 

About 200 members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne division were to have departed the D.C. were ordered back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina on Thursday evening.  

READ MARINE GENERAL JIM MATTIS’ FULL CONDEMNATION OF DONALD TRUMP

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. It is a wholesome and unifying demand -one that all of us should be able to get behind. 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.

When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance 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.

We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate.’ 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.

James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that ‘America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.’ 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.

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’ We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis -confident that we are better than our politics.

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. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s ‘better angels,’ and listen to them, as we work to unite.

Only by adopting a new path – which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals- will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.

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