US Politics: Former defence secretary attacks Trump for 'trying to divide' America

Trump hit back at criticism from James Mattis
Trump has been criticised for sowing division
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The former US defence secretary has launched an attack on Donald Trump, denouncing his management of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. Tradefair brings you the latest from US politics...

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people."

Former defence secretary James Mattis

James Mattis, the former US defence secretary, has strongly criticised Donald Trump for his response to the protests seen across the country following the death of African American George Floyd in police custody.

Floyd suffered a cardiac arrest while being held down for nine minutes by police in Minneapolis on May 25. The incident, which was caught on video, led to protests in more than 75 cities, several of which escalated into violence.

Mattis said he was "angry and appalled" by the events and lambasted Trump for his management of the situation.

The president hit back on Twitter, dismissing Mattis as an "overrated" general.

'Deliberate effort' to divide

In comments published in The Atlantic, Mattis said protesters were "rightly demanding" equal justice under law - a "wholesome and unifying" principle that "all of us should be able to get behind".

He argued that the "small number of lawbreakers" who caused the violent escalation in the protests should not distract from the "people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values".

Turning his attention to the current administration, the ex-defence secretary said Trump is "the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people", adding that he "does not even pretend to try".

"Instead, he tries to divide us," Mattis continued. "We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society."

It was reported that the Marine general resigned as secretary of defence in 2018 over Trump's decision to pull American troops out of Syria.

However, the president claimed on Twitter that he fired Mattis, adding: "I asked for his letter of resignation, and felt great about it."

'Self-promotional stunt'

Trump derided Mattis as "the world's most overrated general" and said the "honour" of firing the former defence secretary was probably the only thing he had in common with Barack Obama.

Continuing his criticism, the president claimed he gave Mattis "a new life" and "battles to win", but the ex-secretary of defence "seldom 'brought home the bacon'".

"I didn't like his 'leadership' style or much else about him, and many others agree. Glad he is gone!" Trump concluded.

Mattis' attack on the president also drew a response from White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who called the Atlantic article "little more than a self-promotional stunt to appease the DC elite".

She went on to describe Trump as "the law and order president that has restored peace to our nation's streets".

The war of words between Mattis and the president came shortly after the Trump administration faced questions over an incident where tear gas and rubber bullets were used to disperse peaceful protesters from a park near the White House.

Trump then crossed the park for a photo opportunity, holding a Bible in front of a historic church that had been damaged during the protests.

Referring to the event in his article, Mattis said: "Never did I dream that troops ... would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens - much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief."

McEnany claimed the president's appearance in front of the church had been "widely hailed" and compared it to Winston Churchill inspecting damage caused by bombing during World War II.

'Battlefield'

Mattis' suggestion that Trump is actively working to create division in American society was echoed by the man set to take on the sitting president in the general election in November: Joe Biden.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee tweeted that Trump has "turned our country into a battlefield" because "he thinks division helps him".

"I ask every American to look at where we are now, and think anew: Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be?" Biden added.

Trump, meanwhile, has been making his case for re-election by arguing that the economy is "in the early stages of coming back very strong" after the coronavirus shutdown. He predicted that next year will be "one of the best ever" for the American economy and backed up his claim by urging people to look at what's happening on the stock market.

It was reported this week that the S&P 500 has just seen its biggest 50-day rally in history, rising by 37.7% over the last 50 trading days.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained more than 3% this week, while the Nasdaq Composite is up by 2%.

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