Speed Reads

Trump tweets

Trump slaps back at ex-Defense Secretary James Mattis in response to brutal critique of Trump's leadership

President Trump responded to Wednesday's blistering rebuke from former Defense Secretary James Mattis by attacking the reticent retired four-star Marine general in two factually challenged tweets.

Mattis, who retired from the military in 2013, sent a statement to The Atlantic on Wednesday lambasting Trump's leadership. He argued that Trump ordered U.S. military personnel to violate the Constitution for his "bizarre photo op" in front of a church, said he hasn't offered "mature leadership," and compared Trump's content attempts to "divide us" to the Nazi "divide and conquer" ethos. "We do not need to militarize our response to protests," Mattis wrote. "We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law."

Trump, recycling old attacks, called Mattis "the world's most overrated general," stated incorrectly that he fired him — Mattis resigned in protest of Trump's decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria, abandoning Kurdish allies — and claimed falsely that he was the one who gave Mattis the hated nickname "Mad Dog."

Mattis and Trump never had a great working relationship, but after resigning with a dryly critical letter, he told The Atlantic there's "a period in which I owe my silence" to the president and his former colleagues, but "it's not eternal. It's not going to be forever." The period is evidently over, and there may be more to come.

Mattis isn't the only retired military leader criticizing Trump's military deployment in the capital and threat to send active-duty troops to other cities — former Joint Chiefs chairmen Adm. Mike Mullen and Martin Dempsey criticized Trump's military response to lawful protests on Tuesday, and a former top Pentagon official, James N. Miller, resigned from the Defense Science Board in protest.