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Mattis and Other Military Leaders Slam Trump Over Threat to Deploy Troops in U.S.

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Photo by Leah Millis for Reuters

  • Former Defense Secretary James Mattis spoke out against President Trump in a cutting op-ed where he criticized the president for his recent actions and accused him of being intentionally divisive.
  • Trump responding in a series of tweets where he attacked Mattis’ character and falsely claimed he fired the former Secretary, who resigned on his own accord in December 2018.
  • Numerous military officials and current Defense Secretary Mark Esper have spoken out against Trump’s threats to send the military to states to address protests over the killing of George Floyd.
  • Others have defended Trump’s remarks, including Sen. Tom Cotton who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled “Send in the Troops.” Numerous Times employees slammed the newspaper for publishing the piece.

Mattis Slams Trump

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis criticized President Donald Trump for his recent actions and remarks in a scathing statement published in the Atlantic Wednesday.

Mattis resigned from his post in December 2018 in protest of Trump’s policy on Syria, and until Wednesday, he had remained largely quiet about his opinions of the president.

“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis opened. 

He went on to say that the demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd were fighting for Equal Justice Under Law, which he called “a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers.”

“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—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside,” he added.

The former Defense Secretary also slammed President Trump’s recent threat to deploy the military to states that did not respond to protests in a manner he felt was effective. 

“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate,’” he said. “At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors.”

“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 stated. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”

“We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square,”  he continued. “We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”

Trump Responds With Falsehoods

Trump was quick to respond to Mattis’ rebuke, attacking the esteemed general in a series of tweets where he made a least two false claims.

“Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General,” Trump wrote. “I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was ‘Chaos’, which I didn’t like, & changed to ‘Mad Dog’”

Despite his bold claim, Trump did not fire Mattis. As noted earlier, the former secretary resigned on his own accord in protest after Trump announced that he was withdrawing troops from Syria.

Numerous officials have backed up that account, which Mattis’ letter of resignation also appears to support.

“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” he wrote at the time.

Trump’s assertion that he changed Mattis’ nickname from “Chaos” to “Mad Dog” is also false. Chaos was Mattis’ military call name, not his nickname, and it has been reported by multiple outlets that the nickname “Mad Dog” was given to Mattis years before Trump took office.

Other Military Officials & Esper Respond

However, Mattis is not the only prominent military official who has criticized Trump’s threat to deploy the military to states.

Earlier this week, two former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmen, Gen. Martin Dempsey and Adm. Mike Mullens spoke out against the president’s warning.

“America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy,” Dempsey wrote in a tweet on Monday.

Mullens, however, was more direct in his condemnation of the president.

“I have to date been reticent to speak out on issues surrounding President Trump’s leadership, but we are at an inflection point,” he wrote in an op-ed in the Atlantic published on Tuesday.

Mullens went on to say that police brutality and injustices against African Americans must be addressed, and that the right to peaceful assembly must be defended.

“And neither of these pursuits will be made easier or safer by an overly aggressive use of our military, active duty or National Guard,” he wrote. “The issue for us today is not whether this authority exists, but whether it will be wisely administered.”

“Furthermore, I am deeply worried that as they execute their orders, the members of our military will be co-opted for political purposes,” he added.

Gen. John Allen, the former commander of American forces in Afghanistan made a similar argument in an op-ed in Foreign Policy published Wednesday.

“Right now, the last thing the country needs—and, frankly, the U.S. military needs—is the appearance of U.S. soldiers carrying out the president’s intent by descending on American citizens.”

However, the most significant remarks on the matter came from current Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who made the striking decision to disagree with the president on a question of military deployments.

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,” Esper said during a press conference Wednesday. “We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.” 

Tom Cotton Op-Ed

Despite very notable military officials openly disagreeing with the president, there are plenty of others who support the move to deploy the military.

On Wednesday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) expressed his desire to send the military to quell the unrest in states in an op-ed for the New York Times titled “Send In the Troops.”

“The rioting has nothing to do with George Floyd, whose bereaved relatives have condemned violence,” he wrote. “On the contrary, nihilist criminals are simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes.”

“One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers,” he continued. “But local law enforcement in some cities desperately needs backup.”

“In normal times, local law enforcement can uphold public order,” Cotton added. “But in rare moments, like ours today, more is needed, even if many politicians prefer to wring their hands while the country burns.”

Both Cotton’s op-ed and the decision to publish it prompted significant backlash from numerous Times employees. Dozens of writers, reporters, editors, and magazine staffers expressed their dissatisfaction with their employer by sharing the same tweet: “Running this puts Black @nytimes staffers in danger”

Others also broadly condemned the op-ed, and one reporter pointed out that Cotton’s claim that “cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa [are] infiltrating protest marches” had been debunked as misinformation by the Times itself.

James Bennet, the Editorial Page Editor defended the decision to run.

“We understand that many readers find Senator Cotton’s argument painful, even dangerous,” he wrote on Twitter. “We believe that is one reason it requires public scrutiny and debate.” 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (CNN) (The Washington Post)

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House Votes To Censure Rep. Gosar, Remove Him From Committees Over AOC Video

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Gosar remained defiant in remarks delivered on the floor where he defended the video and refused to apologize.


Republicans Stay Defiant Amid Censure Debate

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Az.) and remove him from his committees after he tweeted an anime video last week that showed him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

The video, which has since been removed by Gosar, was a parody of the popular anime show “Attack on Titan.”

At one point in the clip, Gosar, along with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Co.), are seen battling and then killing a titan version of Ocasio-Cortez.

That post garnered widespread backlash, but Gosar continued to defend it and refused to apologize.

During the heated debate leading up to Wednesday’s vote, the lawmaker again expressed no regret and remained defiant.

“I rise today to address and reject the mischaracterization and accusations from many in this body that the cartoon from my office is dangerous or threatening. It was not,” he said. “I reject the false narrative categorically.”

“I do not espouse violence toward anyone. I never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset,” he continued. He then went on to insist the video was just a rebuke of President Joe Biden’s immigration policy and compared himself to Alexander Hamilton.

Many Republican leaders — who have largely refused to condemn the video — also defended Gosar and dismissed the post as a joke.

While some said they do not condone violence, few members of the party criticized the lawmaker. Rather, most focused their attacks on Democrats, arguing that they were abusing their power and silencing conservatives.

Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez Condemn Incitement of Violence

Democrats slammed Republicans’ continued refusal to reprimand Gosar. They said there must be consequences and that they were forced to act because his party would not.

Many also argued that they must speak out against actions that could incite the kind of violence that unfolded during the Jan. 6 insurrection. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), for instance, described the situation as “an emergency” that amounted to “violence against women” and “workplace harassment.”

“When a member uses his or her national platform to encourage violence, tragically, people listen,” she said, adding that “depictions of violence can foment actual violence, as witnessed by this chamber on Jan. 6, 2021.”

The Speaker additionally noted that there are legal implications for Gosar’s video because it amounted to a threat against a member of Congress, which is a criminal offense.

Ocasio-Cortez echoed the sentiments expressed by Pelosi during her speech on the floor.

“What I believe is unprecedented is for a member of House leadership of either party to be unable to condemn incitement of violence against a member of this body,” she said. “It is sad. It is a sad day in which a member who leads a political party in the United States of America cannot bring themselves to say that issuing a depiction of murdering a member of Congress is wrong.” 

“What is so hard about saying this is wrong?” she continued. “It’s pretty cut and dry. Does anyone in this chamber find this behavior acceptable?” 

“Our work here matters. Our example matters. There is meaning in our service. And as leaders in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues, that trickles down into violence in this country.” 

Ultimately, the vast majority of House Republicans voted against the resolution to censure Gosar. Only Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Il.) supported the measure, which passed 223 to 207.

While removing Gosar from his committees effectively takes away a major platform for him to effect legislation, the censure is basically just a public condemnation. Still, the move is significant because it represents the first time in more than a decade that a member of the House has been censured and only the 24th instance in American history.

Gosar, for his part, appeared to be unmoved by the decision. Just an hour after the vote, the lawmaker retweeted a post praising him that also included the same video of him killing Ocasio-Cortez.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)

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Former Trump Aide Steve Bannon Surrenders to FBI After Contempt of Congress Charges

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The charges stem from Bannon’s failure to comply with a subpoena from the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.


Bannon Faces Contempt Charges

Former White House advisor Steve Bannon surrendered to the FBI Monday morning on two contempt of Congress charges.

Bannon, who previously served as an aide to former President Donald Trump, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday after he defied a subpoena to testify and provide documents to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“I don’t want anybody to take their eye off the ball…We’re taking down the Biden regime every day,” he said when briefly addressing the media as he turned himself in to the FBI’s Washington, D.C. field office.

Bannon made his first court appearance Monday afternoon, though he did not make a plea and was released from custody. His arraignment is set for Thursday morning.

If convicted, each count of contempt carries a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Contempt of Congress charges are incredibly rare. According to The Washington Post, only three such charges have been brought in the last three decades.

Ongoing Legal Battle

While the proceedings against Bannon will likely be quick, they are only one part of what is shaping up to be a lengthy battle over executive privilege.

Trump has repeatedly attempted to block the Jan. 6 committee from obtaining requested documents, testimonies, and other materials under the argument that they are protected by executive privilege — which he asserts still applies to him and his former aides.

In addition to provoking a fraught legal back-and-forth over key records, the former president’s efforts have additionally prompted multiple previous top officials to refuse to comply with subpoenas.

Some top Democrats have said that Bannon’s indictment will encourage other witnesses to cooperate, but at the same time, it has reinvigorated Trump’s allies in Congress.

While some have threatened payback if Republicans take the House in 2022, others have also weaponized support of Bannon as the latest show of loyalty for Trump, effectively centering the matter as a key issue for the midterm elections.

On Saturday, Trump himself released a statement condemning all Republicans who either voted for the infrastructure bill or the contempt charges against Bannon, listing each by name and promising to back anyone who primaried them in the upcoming elections.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)

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Judge Blocks Trump’s Effort To Keep Records From Jan. 6 Committee

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The former president’s lawyers quickly appealed the decision, and experts have said the legal battle over the records could extend into next year.


Trump’s Attempt To Withhold Documents Rejected

A federal judge issued a ruling Tuesday rejecting former President Donald Trump’s effort to block records from being handed over to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Trump has launched numerous attempts to prevent the committee from obtaining key documents, testimonies, and other evidence lawmakers have requested, claiming the materials are protected by executive privilege.

Last month, he went as far as to file a lawsuit against the panel and the National Archives to prevent the committee from seeing those documents.

In his suit, Trump claimed that executive privilege still applied to him even though he is no longer president, and despite the fact that President Joe Biden also declined to exercise executive privilege over the records.

The former president argued that the requested information has “no reasonable connection to the events of that day” or “any conceivable legislative purpose.”

In her Tuesday ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan broadly rejected those arguments, writing that “the public interest lies in permitting […] the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to and occurred on January 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again.”

Chutkan additionally argued that Congress’ ability to obtain information as part of its constitutional oversight authority outweighs Trump’s remaining secrecy powers, especially because Biden agreed that investigators should see the records.

“[Trump] does not acknowledge the deference owed to the incumbent president’s judgment. His position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity,'” she added. “But presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”

Ongoing Legal Battle

Immediately after the ruling, Trump’s lawyers appealed and moved to block the release of the records until their appeal can be heard.

According to various reports, the appeals court set an initial written briefing deadline for Dec. 27. Legal experts, however, believe the battle will likely continue into next year and will ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court. 

A drawn-out legal process will only continue to benefit Trump, whose strategy of stonewalling and stalling the investigation has so far proven effective at hindering lawmakers.

Additional delays would further aid the former president if litigation continues past the 2022 midterm elections when Republicans hope to retake the House. 

In a statement on Twitter, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich indicated that the legal fight is just now starting.

“The battle to defend Executive Privilege for Presidents past, present & future—from its outset—was destined to be decided by the Appellate Courts,” he wrote. “Pres. Trump remains committed to defending the Constitution & the Office of the Presidency, & will be seeing this process through.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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