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Trump’s former Chief of Staff John Kelly sides with Mattis criticism

John Kelly
John KellyEvan Vucci/Associated Press/file 2018

(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump’s former Chief of Staff John Kelly said Friday he agrees with former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s criticism of the president’s hostility toward protests against police brutality.

Kelly said he sides with Mattis’s view that Trump shouldn’t have threatened the use of active-duty troops to quell protests that have turned violent in some cities.

“I agree with him,” Kelly said during a virtual panel discussion with Anthony Scaramucci, the president’s former communications director. Kelly also said elected leaders need to represent “all of their constituents,” not merely their base.

“I think we need to look harder at who we elect,” said Kelly, who left the White House in January 2019. “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?”

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Kelly also said he had observed that over time, every relationship between Trump and his senior staffers “begins to deteriorate.”Kelly said police should be responsible for ending violent protests. “These are civilian responsibilities,” Kelly said. “We should be very, very careful before we contemplate sending in active duty.”Mattis issued a statement on Wednesday charging that Trump had abused his power on Monday when a park across the street from the White House was forcibly cleared of peaceful protesters before the president staged a photo op at a historic church damaged by arson.

“We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution,” the former defense secretary said.

Mattis departed the administration in late 2018 after quarreling with Trump over the president’s abrupt announcement that he’d withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

The current Pentagon chief, Mark Esper, drew the ire of some White House staff and Trump this week after saying he was also wary of deploying U.S. troops to quell violent protests and looting.

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Trump had threatened the deployment in a statement Monday from the Rose Garden, when he urged state and local officials to “dominate the streets” amid protests that followed the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

He has continued to plead for governors to request military aid putting down the protests, saying Friday in remarks from the White House Rose Garden that “you have to dominate the streets.”