Mr. Trump also again falsely insisted that he fired Mr. Mattis, who in fact resigned in protest over a plan to withdraw troops from Syria. “I did fire James Mattis,” Mr. Trump wrote, adding that he “was no good for me!” In fact, when Mr. Mattis stepped down in December 2018, Mr. Trump himself wrote that “General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction.” He changed his story only to maintain that he had fired Mr. Mattis after growing angry about the former defense secretary’s resignation letter.
In private conversations lately with aides, the president described Mr. Mattis as someone more concerned about getting invited to parties in Washington than anything else, according to a person familiar with the discussion. He has come to see Mr. Mattis the same way he views one of his former White House chiefs of staff, John F. Kelly, a retired Marine general who periodically comments about his White House tenure in scornful terms. Mr. Kelly told The Washington Post on Thursday that Mr. Trump was not telling the truth when he said that he fired Mr. Mattis.
Later in the day, Mr. Trump disputed Mr. Kelly, claiming that he did not tell his chief of staff that he had fired Mr. Mattis because Mr. Kelly “was not in my inner-circle, was totally exhausted by the job, and in the end just slinked away into obscurity.”
He also slammed Ms. Murkowski. “Few people know where they’ll be in two years from now, but I do, in the Great State of Alaska (which I love) campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski,” he wrote.
Senior Pentagon leaders are now so concerned about losing public support that General Milley released a message to top military commanders on Wednesday affirming that every member of the armed forces swears an oath to defend the Constitution, which he said “gives Americans the right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.”
The memo helped temper some of the unrest among retired officers. “It’s a start,” said James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral and NATO commander. “All of the service chiefs have also put out guidance against racial discrimination. I think it’s about as far as they can go in uniform without resignations.”
National Guard commanders, who in recent months have sent thousands of troops to assist American communities in combating Covid-19, also expressed fears that supporting civilian police to quell protests could tarnish the Guard’s image.