Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis isn't totally ready to start going after President Trump publicly, but he's inching closer and closer.
Mattis, who left the Trump administration after disagreeing with the president's decision to withdraw troops from Syria, spoke on Thursday in a new interview with The Atlantic, in which he mostly resisted opportunities to blatantly attack his old boss.
"You don't endanger the country by attacking the elected commander in chief," Mattis said while being prodded for damaging quotes about Trump. "I may not like a commander in chief one fricking bit, but our system puts the commander in chief there, and to further weaken him when we're up against real threats — I mean, we could be at war on the Korean peninsula, every time they start launching something."
This interview came after Mattis published an essay in The Wall Street Journal with sections that sure seemed like Trump critiques. While telling The Atlantic he wants to give the administration "some time to carry out their duties without me adding my criticism," Mattis did express his disapproval of Trump saying in May that he "smiled" at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attacking former Vice President Joe Biden as a "low IQ individual."
"Any Marine general or any other senior servant of the people of the United States would find that, to use a mild euphemism, counterproductive and beneath the dignity of the presidency," Mattis said of this Trump tweet.
Mattis, who didn't seem to disagree with the idea that his new book is one giant subtweet of Trump and who The Atlantic reports "found the president to be of limited cognitive ability," concluded by suggesting this tip-toeing won't be a permanent thing. "There is a period in which I owe my silence," he explained. "It's not eternal. It's not going to be forever." Read the full interview at The Atlantic. Brendan Morrow