Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pushed back Thursday on former Secretary of Defense Gen. Jim Mattis’ criticism of President Trump’s handling of the unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.
Graham said Mattis seems to be “missing that the liberal media has taken every event in the last three-and-a-half years and laid it at the president’s feet.” He said Trump is not “blameless” for the situation unfolding in the country but said Mattis is “buying into a narrative” that is unfair.
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis said. “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… We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
Mattis then referenced Trump’s comments on Monday where the president said he is taking “immediate action” to mobilize “all available federal resources” to stop riots and looting across the country and threatened to deploy the military if states don’t send in the National Guard to protests.
“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago,” he writes, “I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens.”
In response, Graham pointed out that “Gen. Mattis has the right to express himself above all others in many ways because he served the country over a long period of time [and] put himself at risk for the nation.
“I admire his service to the nation, but the one thing I would tell Gen. Mattis is that you don’t quite understand that from the time President Trump wakes up and goes to bed, there’s an effort to destroy his presidency.”
“The Insurrection Act has been used, but has been sparingly used,” Graham noted.
“Nobody wants to send active-duty troops into American cities unless they’re invited, unless they’re absolutely necessary.”
Graham went on to say that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo “should have called out the National Guard early on and I would ask Gen. Mattis to look at the behavior of the politicians in these cities and see if you can find fault with them.”
New York City has been trying to get a handle on the widespread unrest, which included lootings and shootings as well as a stabbing of NYPD officers, after the police-involved death of Floyd on May 25.
Graham acknowledged that Trump “could be a handful” and could “do better,” but added that “the problems we have in America today weren’t caused by Donald Trump and hopefully he can help the nation heal some of these problems.”
Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.