President Donald Trump on Thursday said he would endorse any candidate who would run against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) after the senator came out in support of a statement from former defense secretary James Mattis that heavily criticized Trump.
Murkowski, a swing-vote senator, had told reporters earlier on Thursday that she is “struggling” with the idea of voting for Trump, and said that Mattis’s recent public statement was “true and honest and necessary and overdue.”
Following Murkowski’s comments, Trump wrote on Twitter, “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.
“She voted against HealthCare, Justice Kavanaugh, and much else,” Trump continued. “Unrelated, I gave Alaska ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge], major highways, and more. Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!”
…Unrelated, I gave Alaska ANWR, major highways, and more. Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2020
Mattis, a retired Marine four-star general, issued a heavily critical statement against Trump on Wednesday. Mattis accused the president of causing division among the American people and alleged that Trump has been putting “deliberate” effort over the past three years to that end.
Later that day, Trump issued a comment on Twitter saying that he had “the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General.”
He later added on Thursday, “The problem with asking for someone to give you a letter of resignation, which you do as a courtesy to help them save face, is that it is then harder to say you fired them. I did fire James Mattis. He was no good for Obama, who fired him also, and was no good for me!”
The problem with asking for someone to give you a letter of resignation, which you do as a courtesy to help them save face, is that it is then harder to say you fired them. I did fire James Mattis. He was no good for Obama, who fired him also, and was no good for me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2020
On Monday, June 1, around 7:00 p.m., Trump walked across Lafayette Square from the White House to St. John’s Church and held up a bible. He was accompanied by senior aides, along with Secret Service agents and reporters. The church had been partially damaged due to arson over the weekend.
“We have the greatest country in the world,” Trump said at the church, where many past presidents have attended services. “We’re going to keep it safe.”
U.S. Park Police had evacuated protesters at the park around 6:30 p.m., ahead of a 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed by Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser. Police officers used smoke canisters and pepper balls to aid them in dispersing the crowd after protesters became combative and started throwing objects at the officers, according to a USPP statement.
Republicans criticized Trump over what happened on June 1, including Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
“There is no right to riot, no right to destroy others’ property and no right to throw rocks at police,” Sasse said in a statement on June 2. “But there is a fundamental—a constitutional—right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the word of God as a political prop.”
“It was painful to watch peaceful protesters be subjected to tear gas in order for the president to go across the street to a church that I believe he’s attended only once,” Collins told reporters on June 2.
“All of us are upset at the fire that was set at the church, a historic house of worship for many, many presidents, but I thought the president came across as unsympathetic and as insensitive to the rights of people to peacefully protest,” she added.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters on Thursday that Mattis’ statement was “stunning and powerful” and described Mattis as an American patriot.
“I think the world of him. If I ever had to choose somebody to be in a foxhole with, it would be with General Mattis,” Romney added.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of Black Lives Matter against the Trump administration on Thursday, alleging that officials had violated the civil rights of protesters in clearing out the area prior to Trump’s trip across the square to the church.
George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest on May 25. A memorial service was held for Floyd in Minneapolis on Thursday.
Floyd’s death and the events leading to it sparked nationwide protests expressing grief over police brutality. But in many instances, acts of violence, arson, and looting have marred the initially peaceful demonstrations.
Amid violent activities across the nation, the National Guard has been deployed in at least 31 U.S. states at the request of governors, and the Pentagon has moved about 1,600 troops into the Washington area.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.