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Trump calls out Generals Mattis and Kelly on Twitter – here’s what he said

President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr/Department of Defense)
June 05, 2020

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s former Defense Secretary and retired Marine Gen. James Mattis wrote a statement in The Atlantic in which he accused Trump of dividing the country. Hours later on Wednesday night, Trump responded with his own criticism of the retired general.

Mattis had criticized Trump’s response to ongoing civil unrest following the death of George Floyd while in police custody. In a pair of tweets, Trump recalled Mattis’ December 2018 departure from his administration and their sparring views on leadership.

“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. His nickname was ‘Chaos’, which I didn’t like, & changed 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!

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Mattis gave his letter of resignation one day after Trump called for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

Since his departure from the administration, Mattis has said it would be inappropriate to criticize the administration while it is still leading. Mattis’ comments Wednesday broke with that standard. He said Trump was making a “mockery of the constitution” over his support for using National Guard and even active military units to respond to rioting.

Mattis said Trump was not even trying to unite the country and that the current events reflected “three years without mature leadership.”

On Thursday, Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, another retired Marine Corps general, disputed Trump’s claim he fired Mattis during an interview with The Washington Post.

“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.”

On Thursday, Trump responded to Kelly, saying by that point Kelly was not in Trump’s “inner circle” in terms of making personnel decisions for the administration.

“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!,” Trump tweeted.

Around the same time Trump and Mattis were at odds, in December of 2018, he also announced Kelly would be leaving the administration at the end of the year.

“The problem with asking for someone to give you a letter of resignation, which you do as a courtesy to help them save face, is that it is then harder to say you fired them. I did fire James Mattis,” Trump tweeted. “He was no good for Obama, who fired him also, and was no good for me!”