John Kelly defends James Mattis after Trump rebuke: 'The president did not fire him'

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Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Thursday that President Trump has “clearly forgotten” the details surrounding James Mattis’ departure after the president attacked him on Twitter this week, saying it was he who had the “honor of firing” the former defense secretary.

“The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly, a former Marine General, told the Washington Post.

In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Trump berated Mattis, calling him the “world’s most overrated general” and claimed to have terminated him after the former secretary of defense criticized Trump’s leadership, saying the president has deliberately tried to divide Americans and has threatened the U.S. Constitution.

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“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 for The Atlantic Wednesday.

“We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership,” Mattis said. “We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society.”

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Some GOP lawmakers have come out in support of Mattis’ article.

Republican Lisa Murkowski from Alaska said that she was “struggling” to support Trump in his upcoming election because of how he handled the recent protests after the death of George Floyd. Murkowski told reporters Thursday she thought Mattis’ “words were true and honest and necessary and overdue.”

“Jim Mattis is an honorable man,” Kelly said Wednesday, after highlighting why Mattis left office.

Mattis resigned in 2018, citing a difference in views with the president that coincided with Trump’s decision to pull all military forces from Syria at the time.

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Kelly and Mattis, both retired Marine Corps generals, were among those Trump first selected for his Cabinet.

Both left their positions over disagreements with Trump.