President Donald Trump's threats to deploy U.S. troops to stop the protests taking place throughout the country have spurred an unprecedented response from some of the nation’s top former military leaders.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to do unite the American people –– does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us," Mattis wrote.
Retired U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis says he appreciates Mattis coming out and speaking publicly.
Stavridis says the U.S. military must stand up for its soul in this moment, that we cannot afford to have Lafayette Square, in front of the White House, end up looking like Tiananmen Square in Beijing, where thousands were killed on this day 31 years ago.
“It’s really time that we said no, our active-duty forces should not be employed in a situation to crush peaceful protesters,” Stavridis says.
Others weighed in, including Sen. Mitt Romney. He said Mattis is an individual of judgment who he respects adding, “General Mattis’ letter was stunning and powerful. General Mattis is a man of extraordinary sacrifice. He’s an American patriot.”
That pushback may have been the motivation for current Defense Secretary Mark Esper to speak out against the threat after seemingly supporting the president’s call to forcibly clear peaceful protesters outside a church where Trump held a photo-op.
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law-enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now,” Esper said.
His position in the Trump administration is now said to be on shaky ground.