Trump’s Enablers Face Violent Reckoning

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Trump will “deservedly be left a man without a country.”

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces, as they storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6.
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces, as they storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

In his first words as president four years ago, Donald Trump warned of “American carnage” in the nation’s streets, schools, and factories. Facing the final certification of his electoral defeat in Congress this week, Trump brought that carnage to the doorstep of democracy. At the president’s urging, a mob of his supporters marched to the U.S. Capitol and then broke into the complex, holding the proceedings hostage for hours before the National Guard and backup law enforcement officials showed up.

Congress reconvened hours later, with Vice President Mike Pence certifying Biden’s victory early Thursday morning. By then, the president’s refusal to condemn Wednesday’s attack, in which one woman was killed inside the Capitol, had already pushed several administration officials already contemplating resignation over the edge.

Trump, whose Twitter account was muzzled last night after he continued to baselessly question the Nov. 3 election results, released a statement promising an “orderly transition on January 20th” just after the certification.

Abandon ship? Trump’s statement has done little to stanch the bloodletting inside the White House. The highest-level departure so far is Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger, a former journalist and U.S. Marine and an architect of the administration’s hard-line strategy on China. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, who has previously been loyal to Trump, is also said to be considering leaving over Wednesday’s scene. So is Deputy Chief of Staff Chris Liddell, the main White House interlocutor with the Biden transition team.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former acting chief of staff who spent much of Wednesday urging the president to speak out on Twitter, also resigned as special envoy to Northern Ireland, as has Ryan Tully, the senior director for European and Russian Affairs at the National Security Council, Bloomberg reports.

Also out: Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s chief of staff and former White House press secretary, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews, and White House social secretary Anna Cristina Niceta. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Intelligence and Security John Costello also resigned on Thursday, tweeting that Trump had “long disregarded and diminished the rule of law and the constitution.”

Mattis unloads. Unlike some other Trump alumni, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hasn’t frequently stepped into the spotlight to disavow his former boss—until now. Late Wednesday, Mattis issued a scathing rebuke of the president and his enablers, seething with venom even by today’s standards.

The full statement: “Today’s violent assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr. Trump. His use of the Presidency to destroy trust in our election and to poison our respect for fellow citizens has been enabled by pseudo-political leaders whose names will live in infamy as profiles in cowardice.

“Our Constitution and our Republic will overcome this stain and We the People will come together again in our never-ending effort to form a more perfect Union, while Mr. Trump will deservedly be left a man without a country.”

Jack Detsch is Foreign Policy’s Pentagon and national security reporter. Twitter: @JackDetsch

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer


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