President Donald Trump’s former chief of staff and Homeland Security secretary John Kelly said Friday he agreed with former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ criticism of Trump and said “we need to look harder at who we elect.”
Asked about Mattis’ statement by former White House communication director Anthony Scaramucci, Kelly said, “I agree.”
Kelly told Scaramucci in the live-streamed interview that Trump did not fire Mattis, despite Trump’s tweets claiming he had fired his former top Pentagon official.
“There is a concern, I think an awful big concern, that the partisanship has gotten out of hand, the tribal thing has gotten out of hand,” Kelly continued.
In a statement released Wednesday, Mattis blasted Trump as a threat to American democracy for dividing the country and forcibly clearing mostly peaceful demonstrators for a photo op.
“I think we need to look harder at who we elect,” Kelly said. “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?”
Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, also urged caution against using the military to respond to protests.
“The idea that you would unleash active duty folks, unless it’s an extreme situation…these are civilian responsibilities, and we should be very, very careful before we contemplate sending in active-duty military,” Kelly said of proposals from Trump and others to deploy active-duty soldiers to respond to nationwide protests. Demonstrations erupted across the U.S. after George Floyd, an African-American man, died after a white Minneapolis police office pinned him to the ground with his knee.
Kelly said he would have advised Trump against clearing the park ahead of his visit, saying, “I would’ve argued against it, recommended against it. I would argue that the end result of that was predictable.”
Kelly left the White House in January 2019, and has held back criticism of the Trump administration. In February 2020, he defended impeachment inquiry witness Alexander Vindman against criticism from Trump and his allies, drawing Trump’s ire.