John Kelly Defends Jim Mattis Against ‘Nasty’ Trump Twitter Attack

President Donald Trump’s former chief of staff John Kelly on Thursday stood by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s searing rebuke of the president’s handling of the nationwide unrest and fact-checked Trump’s “nasty” claim that he fired Mattis. 

“The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly said in an interview with 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 an honorable man.”

Mattis ― a retired Marine general who cited differences in views with Trump when he resigned as defense secretary in 2018 ― on Wednesday made a statement condemning Trump’s divisive and inflammatory actions as the nation is rocked by protests over the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the cases of many other Black victims of police violence. He is one of several former military leaders to speak out following Trump’s stunning declaration on Monday that he would deploy military troops to respond to the nationwide protests.

“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 published by The Atlantic.

He put the nationwide crisis down as “the consequences of three years without mature leadership” and Trump’s “deliberate effort” to divide people, and he urged that Americans “reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”

Trump responded with a Twitter outburst, declaring Mattis to be “the world’s most overrated General” and claiming, “I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it.”

Though Wednesday’s rebuke marks the first time Mattis has made a public denunciation of the president, tensions between Kelly and Trump were widely reported during his time as chief of staff. Kelly, also a retired Marine Corps general, has broken with Trump on several issues since leaving the administration and faced the president’s wrath earlier this year when he spoke out about impeachment.

Trump responded to Kelly’s defense of Mattis with a pair of sour tweets Thursday evening, blasting him as being “totally exhausted” in his former role and now wanting to “come back for a piece of the limelight.”

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Trump’s Former Defense Secretary Called Him A Threat To The Republic. The GOP Doesn’t Care.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis thinks President Donald Trump is a juvenile and divisive leader who poses a fundamental threat to the republic. Most Senate Republicans say that’s just, like, his opinion, man.

Mattis had largely remained quiet about his former boss after resigning as defense secretary at the end of 2018 following Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. His silence ended this week amid nationwide protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

In an extraordinary rebuke on Wednesday, Mattis excoriated Trump’s response to the civil unrest, writing that the president abused his power by cracking down on protesters at the White House and has sown division rather than working to unite Americans.

“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, a retired four-star Marine general, wrote in a letter published by The Atlantic.

The unusually pointed criticism from someone Trump had repeatedly praised was received by most Senate Republicans in much the same way they have prior condemnations of Trump by other top officials from his administration: a huge shrug.

“I think that’s one individual’s view,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said Thursday. “I don’t think that’s going to make a difference like some have talked about in terms of being the straw the breaks the camel’s back, so to speak.”

Sure, there were some exceptions. But those came from familiar voices.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who is known to sometimes break from her party but nevertheless voted to acquit Trump during his impeachment trial earlier this year, called Mattis’ letter “true, honest, necessary and overdue.” Yet Murkowski told reporters on Capitol Hill that she continues to “struggle” with whether to support the president in the 2020 election, even though she agrees with the letter.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), another critic of Trump’s, called Mattis’ broadside “powerful” and “stunning,” praising his “extraordinary service and sacrifice and great judgment.” The senator, who voted to convict Trump in February, did not say whether he agreed with Mattis.

Most of their colleagues either refrained from commenting or sought to downplay Mattis’ criticism of Trump ― a recurring pattern for Republican lawmakers, who have feared reprisals from the president and his supporters.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a veteran and a member of GOP leadership, declined to comment. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is very active on Twitter, said he “didn’t see” the comments that drew big headlines this week.

“They’ve had a little bit of [a] history of differences,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said of the two men. “But I have a lot of respect for Gen. Mattis. I respect his opinion. I agree with most of them.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said he was a “fan” of Mattis but defended Trump, noting the president had denounced Floyd’s death and addressed racial justice issues.

“The question is more about tone and words. [Trump] could do better. … We need to continue to encourage the president to say what he’s said in his speeches,” Portman said.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), meanwhile, suggested that Mattis wasn’t media savvy and was somehow fooled into speaking out against the president.

“He was put in a situation where he was subjected to the press. … A lot of the unfriendly media would like to put them in the situation, misquote them, misquote me,” Inhofe told HuffPost, adding that Mattis is “just not seasoned how to respond sometimes.”

When HuffPost noted Mattis wasn’t misquoted and that he put his thoughts down in a letter The Atlantic had published in full, Inhofe said, “That’s part of communication.”

“I don’t agree that I should pass judgment on what he should be writing,” Inhofe said when asked further if he agreed with the retired general.

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Anderson Cooper Dismantles Kayleigh McEnany’s ‘Like Churchill’ Defense Of Trump

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday likened President Donald Trump’s church photo-op stunt to the symbolic images of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspecting the rubble of buildings bombed during World War II.

And CNN’s Anderson Cooper was not having the comparison.

Peaceful protesters were on Monday cleared from around St. John’s Episcopal Church, near the White House, by federal authorities using tear gas so Trump could pose with a Bible as a purported show of strength amid the protests that have erupted following the death of George Floyd.

McEnany claimed during a White House briefing Wednesday that Trump had “wanted to send a very powerful message that we will not be overcome by looting, by rioting, by burning, this is not what defines America” and that the stunt was “a very important moment” to show “resilience,” as other presidents and world leaders have previously done.

“Like Churchill, we saw him inspecting the bombing damage, it sent a powerful message of leadership to the British people,” she claimed. 

(Check out the full video of McEnany’s comments above).

Cooper acknowledged Trump and Churchill were both children of privilege who led their respective countries.

But, for the host of “Anderson Cooper 360,” there the likeness ended.

Cooper noted how Churchill saw combat, was a prisoner of war, wrote books and “one of the greatest orators in modern times.”

Trump? Not so much.

“Burned out church, a Bible in his hand, the country divided, and he couldn’t think of anything to say except to ask a bunch of other white guys to stand around him and just take a picture.”

Check out Cooper’s monologue here:

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Trump Defends Church Photo Op: ‘I Think It Was Very Symbolic’

President Donald Trump is standing by his decision to pose with a Bible outside St. John’s Church in Washington on Monday ― a stunt that drew swift and harsh rebukes from two of the city’s top prelates.

“Most religious leaders loved it,” Trump insisted in a Fox News radio interview about a photo shoot that took place after law enforcement officers forcefully dispersed a peaceful demonstration against the police killing of George Floyd.

“I think it was very symbolic. I did hold up a Bible. I think that’s a good thing, not a bad thing, and many religious leaders loved it,” Trump told the show’s host, Fox anchor Brian Kilmeade, on Wednesday.

“Why wouldn’t they love it? I’m standing in front of a church that went through trauma ― to put it mildly,” Trump said.

Trump pointed specifically to the support he’s received from evangelist Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor, for posing in front of the historic Episcopal church, which was damaged during Sunday protests against police brutality toward Black Americans.

Trump also tried to distance himself from the aggressive maneuvers used by police to clear protesters from Lafayette Square, a park near St. John’s Church, to allow Trump passage to the photo op. The president insisted that officers didn’t use tear gas on the protesters, although they did, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of tear gas and other riot control agents.

“They didn’t use tear gas. They didn’t use ― they moved them out,” Trump said. “Now when I went, I didn’t say move them out. I didn’t know who was there.”

In a Facebook post that avoided any mention of the force used on protesters, Graham said that he was “not at all” offended by Trump’s actions. Graham said Trump demonstrated that the “burning, looting, and vandalism of the nation’s capital — including this historic house of worship—mattered, and that the lawlessness had to end.”

Graham added that he found it “unbelievable” that members of the clergy have been some of the president’s harshest critics. They “should be thanking him rather than criticizing him!” Graham wrote.

Trump said “many other people” thought his display at St. John’s was great. “It’s only the other side that didn’t like it,” Trump said. “You know, the opposing ― the opposition party, as the expression goes.”

Both the Episcopal and Roman Catholic prelates of Washington put out scorching statements opposing Trump’s photo op.

Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde told HuffPost on Monday that although she was upset about the parish building’s being damaged, it’s much more important to focus on the systemic pattern of racism that the protesters are trying to highlight.

The Rev. Gini Gerbasi, an Episcopal priest, told HuffPost that she was in the crowd of people that was tear-gassed and driven away by police. She called what happened “grotesque and offensive and sacrilegious.” 

But the president’s closest evangelical allies ― Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Latino evangelical leader the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, evangelical public relations consultant the Rev. Johnnie Moore ― have rallied around him. 

Perkins praised Trump for “sending a message that he’s not going to be intimidated, that our government is not in hiding,” according to the Associated Press. The only thing Perkins said he would have personally done differently is to ask a multiracial group of pastors to offer a prayer for the nation.

John Fea, a historian of American evangelicalism at Messiah College, said he thinks Trump’s closest advisers are looking at his actions through the lens of Romans 13, a Bible passage that exhorts Christians to submit to authority. These verses have been cited in the past by Trump’s close evangelical allies, whom Fea has nicknamed the “court evangelicals,” to justify support for policies that appear to contradict Jesus’s teachings about compassion.

In addition, conservative evangelicals have a tendency to believe that culture war issues and the goal of winning souls through evangelism are more important than questions of social justice, Fea said.

“Court evangelicals will always place abortion, religious liberty and conservative Supreme Court justices over care and concern for the poor, the marginalized, the stranger (immigrants) and those who are the victim of systemic racism,” Fea said. “They will condemn individual acts of racism, but they do not believe in systemic or structural racism.”

More broadly, even though some rank-and-file white evangelicals are disgusted by what Trump did at St. John’s Church, that won’t change how they vote, Fea said.

“They will still vote for Trump in 2020 because he holds the right views on the social issues … that many evangelicals believe are non-negotiables when it comes to choosing a candidate,” Fea said.

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Justin Trudeau Goes Viral for His Response to Donald Trump Question: 20 Seconds of Silence

Sometimes silence can speak louder than words.

For a few moments on Tuesday — 21 to be exact — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had none of his own words to offer when asked about President Donald Trump's response to the protests and widespread unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd.

During a press conference outside the prime minister's residence in Ottawa, a reporter asked Trudeau about Trump's threat to send the military into local communities to corral demonstrators and the decision to forcefully clear protestors from outside the White House on Monday night so Trump and his aides could walk to the nearby St. John's church.

"You've been reluctant to comment about the words and actions of the U.S. president. … I'd like to ask you what you think about that. And, if you don't want to comment, what message do you think you're sending?" the reporter said.

The Canadian leader, 48, stood silent for 21 seconds, seeming to need that time to find the right words to respond.

Footage of the exchange quickly went viral on social media, where it was seen hundreds of thousands of times.

"We all watch in horror and consternation what's going on in the United States," Trudeau began after his pause. "It is a time to pull people together, but it is a time to listen."




Canada has seen its own demonstrations in recent days, in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and elsewhere.

"It's something many of us don't see, but it's something that is a lived reality for racialized Canadians. We need to see that — not just as a government and take action — but we need to see that as Canadians," Trudeau said Tuesday. "We need to be allies in the fight against discrimination. We need to listen, we need to learn, and we need to work hard to figure out how we can be part of the solution on fixing things."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.

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Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Sounds Off On Trump: ‘I Cannot Remain Silent’

Mike Mullen, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, wrote in The Atlantic on Tuesday that he “cannot remain silent” about President Donald Trump any longer. 

“It sickened me yesterday to see security personnel – including members of the National Guard – forcibly and violently clear a path through Lafayette Square to accommodate the president’s visit outside St. John’s Church,” he wrote. 

On Monday, Trump threatened to send U.S. troops into American cities to deal with civil unrest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, last week. After the president spoke, police forced peaceful protesters out of Lafayette Square near the White House so he could walk to the church for a photo op. 

Mullen, who served as chairman under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, called the photo op a “stunt” that did little good:

“Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.”

The retired four-star Navy admiral said armed forces would obey lawful orders.

“But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief,” Mullen wrote. “And I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops.” 

Mullen noted that American neighborhoods are our homes ― not “battle spaces,” as Defense Secretary Mark Esper described them over the weekend. 

“Our fellow citizens are not the enemy and must never become so,” Mullen wrote.

Read his full essay here. 

 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the defense secretary. 

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Trump Says RNC Will Pull Republican Convention From North Carolina

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the Republican National Committee would relocate its upcoming nominating convention from North Carolina after the state’s governor refused to guarantee that tens of thousands of people could gather in an indoor arena during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Governor [Roy] Cooper is still in Shelter-In-Place Mode, and not allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised,” Trump tweeted. “Would have showcased beautiful North Carolina to the World, and brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, and jobs, for the State.”

Cooper, a Democrat, said Tuesday he had been supportive of a “safe” convention and had made protecting public health a priority. But the governor claimed RNC officials “never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe.”

RNC officials said the move was linked to the state’s public health directives that limit large gatherings but noted the event could still continue as planned “should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room.”

“Due to the directive from the governor that our convention cannot go on as planned as required by our rules, the celebration of the president’s acceptance of the Republican nomination will be held in another city,” the official told HuffPost. “Should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room, we still hope to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte.”

Cooper wrote to Republican officials this week to address the threat posed by the coronavirus, saying he felt it was “very unlikely” a normal convention could go forward after speaking with public health officials.

“The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity,” he wrote. “We are happy to continue talking with you about what a scaled-down convention would look like.”

The decision comes amid ongoing concerns over the spread of COVID-19, even as states have opened up large sectors of their economies. Up to 50,000 people are expected to attend the RNC event, which was set to take place from August 24-27 in Charlotte.

More than 1.8 million people have been infected with the virus in the U.S. and more than 106,000 have died. While infection rates have tapered off in some places, health officials have warned of a dramatic second wave, should social distancing measures be lifted too soon.

Democrats have also been working on contingency measures for their own convention, which is scheduled for August in Milwaukee. The party has been mulling some type of virtual event, although officials have reportedly been holding out for an in-person gathering.

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Bishop Denounces President Trump's 'Incendiary' Photo-Op at St. John's Church amid Protests






Protesters and police have clashed around the country. While many of the demonstrations have been peaceful, some have descended into violence and looting, with businesses ransacked and burned and police vehicles burning in the street.

The White House blamed the chaos on "radical" leftists and criticized the response of former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's likely opponent in November's election, and some local leaders.

While Trump has said he stands in solidarity with Floyd's family, he has focused on the protesters and the moments of violence — arguing the proper response is a dominating show of force in kind.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told Trump on the Monday morning call with governors that he was "extraordinarily concerned" about the president's words.

"The rhetoric that's coming out of the White House is making it worse," Pritzker told Trump. "I need to say that people are feeling real pain out there and we’ve got to have national leadership in calling for calm and making sure that we’re addressing the concerns of the legitimate peaceful protesters. That will help us to bring order."

Biden, 77, joined religious leaders in denouncing Trump's actions Monday.

He said Tuesday morning that people across the country were “crying out for leadership” to "unite us and bring us together."

"I just wish he opened it [the Bible] once in a while instead of brandishing it," Biden said. "If he opened it, he could’ve learned something. We’re all called to love one another as we love ourselves. It’s really hard work, but it’s the work of America.”

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.

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Civil Rights Leaders Slam Zuckerberg After Meeting On Trump Posts

A group of civil rights leaders who spoke with Mark Zuckerberg Monday night blasted the Facebook CEO afterward for his refusal to take action on posts by President Donald Trump they say incite violence.

In a joint statement, Vanita Gupta of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Rashad Robinson of Color of Change said they were “disappointed and stunned by Mark’s incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up.”

“He did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and he refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump’s call for violence against protesters,” the statement continued. “Mark is setting a very dangerous precedent for other voices who would say similar harmful things on Facebook.”

Trump’s posts came as protests flared around the country following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. In one message, Trump called protesters “THUGS” and said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” parroting a racist Miami police chief’s quote against 1960s civil rights protests. 

Twitter placed Trump’s posts on that platform behind a warning label that said they violated rules against “glorifying violence.” The company didn’t take the tweets down, however, saying it was “in the public’s interest” for the president’s posts to remain accessible.

Facebook did nothing.

Facebook told HuffPost the company appreciated the “candid” dialogue.

“We’re grateful that leaders in the civil rights community took the time to share candid, honest feedback with Mark and Sheryl,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “It is an important moment to listen, and we look forward to continuing these conversations.”

Facebook employees on Monday began to speak out publicly against the company and staged a “virtual walkout” to protest Zuckerberg’s inaction.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, policy executives Nick Clegg and Joel Kaplan, and external affairs director Lindsay Elin were also on the call with the civil rights leaders. Kaplan’s inclusion is notable ― he’s a close friend of Supreme Court Justice Bret Kavanaugh and supported Kavanaugh’s controversial nomination at the expense of Facebook’s reputation.

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Trump Poses With Bible After Having Protesters Cleared Away With Tear Gas

President Donald Trump clutched a Bible and posed for photos in front of a church near the White House on Monday after ordering that protesters be cleared from the area with tear gas and rubber bullets.

“Greatest country in the world. And we’re going to keep it safe,” Trump said in front of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, just minutes after he directed law enforcement officers to tear-gas crowds protesting police brutality so he’d have an unimpeded walk from the White House to the church.

Trump, who is not a regular churchgoer, did not pray or open the Bible. He appeared to use the moment as photo-op, striking various poses with the book as he stood alongside other members of his administration. When a reporter asked if it was his Bible, he responded that it was just “a Bible.” 

The Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., who oversees St. John’s, told The Washington Post that she was “outraged” that neither she nor the church’s rector were informed “that they would be clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop, holding a Bible, one that declares that God is love, and when everything he has said and done is to inflame violence.”  

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke to CNN shortly after to call out Trump for his “shameful” actions to drive back the protesters. 

“They used the American military to push back a peaceful protest, which everyone watched on TV, just so he could have a photo-op of walking to a church,” Cuomo said. 

Shortly before, Trump vowed to crack down on the nationwide anti-racism protests in the wake of a police officer killing George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis last week. 

“As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property,” Trump said in a surreal speech from the White House Rose Garden, speaking over the sound of police flash-bang explosions. 

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