In an interview with the Atlantic, former defense chief James Mattis makes clear he is not ready to start bad-mouthing President Trump or his policies. But he also suggested that may change. “There is a period in which I owe my silence," he tells Jeffrey Goldberg. "It’s not eternal. It’s not going to be forever." But when Goldberg pressed the former Marine Corps general about a particular presidential tweet—one in which Trump shrugged off North Korean missile tests and praised a Kim Jong Un insult of Joe Biden—Mattis wan't as reticent to criticize. “Any Marine general or any other senior servant of the people of the United States would find that, to use a mild euphemism, counterproductive and beneath the dignity of the presidency," said Mattis.
Mattis resigned in December after Trump ordered the withdrawal of US forces from Syria, a position with which he disagreed, per Politico. "When you leave an administration over clear policy differences, you need to give the people who are still there as much opportunity as possible to defend the country,” he says, referring to his reluctance to be more vocal with criticism. Still, Mattis has been edging toward that point, including in a Wall Street Journal essay this week, as he promotes a forthcoming book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. "I had no choice but to leave," he tells Goldberg. "I’ve been informed by four decades of experience, and I just couldn’t connect the dots anymore." (Read more Lt. Gen. James Mattis stories.)