Mattis breaks silence to denounce Trump

Former U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis broke his silence on President Donald Trump and roundly denounced a military response to the country's civil unrest.

In a statement published by the Atlantic on Wednesday (June 3), he also called Trump a threat to the constitution.

Accusing the president of trying to divide America, Mattis said quote, "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people-does not even pretend to try."

They're the strongest remarks so far from a former Pentagon leader over Trump's response to nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

The president has threatened to deploy troops to end violent dissent, setting off alarm bells within the U.S. military and Congress.

Mattis argued that ramping up militization in response to the protests could set up a quote "false conflict between the military and civilian society."

Mattis also criticized U.S. military leadership for participating in Trump's Monday photo-op outside a church near the White House.

Law enforcement, including National Guard, cleared out peaceful protesters - which Mattis called quote 'an abuse of executive power.'

Mattis resigned as Trump's defense secretary in 2018.

Speaking to CBS' "This Morning" last year, Mattis had previously refused to explicitly criticize a sitting president.

In Wednesday's statement, Mattis also criticized current Defense Secretary Mark Esper for using the word "battlespace" to describe the sites of protests across the U.S.

Esper said Wednesday he didn't support deploying active-duty forces to quell civil unrest for now.

"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."

An administration official told Reuters those remarks did not go over well with either the president or his top aides.

Trump has responded to Mattis, tweeting that quote "I didn't like his "leadership" style or much else about him, and many others agree. Glad he is gone!"