Former White House chief of staff John Kelly urged people to think more critically about who they elect to serve in the government.
“I think we need to look harder at who we elect,” he told former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci during a livestreamed interview on Friday. “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, a retired Marine Corps general who served as President Trump’s chief of staff from July 2017 to January 2019, also offered some insight into the White House environment. He said every relationship with Trump “deteriorates over time.”
He also offered support for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who issued a striking rebuke of the president this week for his handling of the George Floyd protests.
Kelly said he agreed with Mattis, also a retired Marine Corps general, who said Trump is the “first” commander in chief in his “lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”
“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,” Mattis said. “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.”
Trump responded to the condemnation from Mattis on social media.
“Probably the only thing Barack Obama and 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. His nickname was ‘Chaos’, which I didn’t like, & changed it to ‘Mad Dog,’” Trump tweeted. “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!”
Kelly defended Mattis, telling the Washington Post that Trump’s version of events was untrue.
“The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly said. “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 a honorable man.”
Trump then directed his ire toward Kelly.
“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,” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “They all want to come back for a piece of the limelight!”
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