John Kelly Defends Mattis, Says Trump Is ‘Confused’ About Former Defense Secretary’s Exit

John Kelly Defends Mattis, Says Trump Is ‘Confused’ About Former Defense Secretary’s Exit

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly on Thursday defended Jim Mattis after President Trump attacked the former defense secretary for his remarks on the president’s handling of the ongoing protests. Kelly also disputed Trump’s claim that he fired the retired general in 2018.

“The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly said in an interview, according to the Washington Post. “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.”

Mattis tendered his resignation in December 2018, citing differences over Trump’s troop withdrawal policy in Syria.

Mattis issued a statement roundly criticizing Trump’s response to the protests around the country spurred by George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police last month.

“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.

“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.”

Trump responded on Twitter: “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.”

William Vaillancourt

William Vaillancourt

William Vaillancourt is a writer and editor from New Hampshire whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Progressive, Slate and Areo Magazine, among other places. He holds a BA in Political Science and History from Boston University.