President Donald Trump's first secretary of defense delivered a sharp rebuke to him Wednesday night, laying responsibility for a siege of the U.S. Capitol at his feet.
"Today's violent assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr. Trump," Jim Mattis said in a statement provided to Military.com. "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."
Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general who led the Pentagon for two years, added that the nation would overcome despite efforts to disrupt a peaceful transfer of power.
"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," he said.
His comments came hours after a pro-Trump mob breached thin security at the U.S. Capitol, overrunning House and Senate offices and forcing lawmakers and staff to shelter in place. One individual was fatally shot by police during the siege. As law enforcement personnel struggled to regain control of the building, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced the full activation of the Washington, D.C. National Guard to back up police.
The assault on the Capitol came as Congress convened to formally count electoral votes and declare Democrat Joe Biden the president-elect. House speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that lawmakers would resume counting Wednesday night.
Mattis submitted his resignation to Trump in December 2018, after the president announced plans to withdraw all U.S.-troops from Syria in a move that would leave allies on the ground to fight Islamic State militants unaided.
"One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships," Mattis wrote in his resignation letter. "While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies."
Mattis declined to speak publicly regarding Trump for more than a year after leaving office, maintaining what he called a "duty of silence" even through the publication of a memoir in late 2019. But he broke that silence in 2020, denouncing what he described as the "militarization" of Washington, D.C. in response to protests over racial inequality and police violence.
"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 wrote in an article published in The Atlantic.
Mattis joined the nation's nine other living former defense secretaries to publish an op-ed in the Washington Post earlier this week, stating that U.S. troops had no role in determining the outcome of American elections. The group also acknowledged the legitimacy of Biden, a rebuke to Trump, who has repeatedly claimed that the November election was fraudulent and that he won reelection by a landslide.
"Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted," the former officials wrote. "The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived."
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.