Military leaders reportedly despaired at President Donald Trump’s equivocal defense of white supremacists who killed a protester during a Virginia rally.
Chief of staff John Kelly, a retired general, and other top administration officials were “despondent” over the president’s insistence that “many sides” were to blame for the violence that erupted when white supremacists marched in support of Confederate monuments, reported Vanity Fair.
The president insisted some “very fine people” had marched alongside neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, and expressed his own support for the Confederate monuments they were rallying to preserve.
Kelly “could only look at the floor and shake his head as he listened,” according to the magazine’s reporting.
One source told Vanity Fair that Kelly and other military leaders in the Cabinet felt duty-bound to remain in the administration, despite the president’s remarks, in order to carry out essential government business.
That includes developing a strategy to deal with worsening tension with North Korea, according to the source.
Other top administration officials, including chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, were also upset by Trump’s seeming defense of neo-Nazis and white supremacists who chanted anti-Semitic slogans.
His daughter, who converted to Orthodox Judaism before marrying Kushner, tweeted out a response the following day but has remained silent since, as her husband has.
“There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis,” she tweeted.
Defense Secretary James Mattis addressed troops serving in Jordan, asking them to remain steadfast despite the political divisions back home — which many believe refers to the president’s comments on his white supremacist supporters.
“Our country right now, it’s got problems — you know it and I know it — it’s got problems we don’t have in the military,” Mattis said. “You just hold the line, my fine young soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, you hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it — to be friendly with one another.”