Mattis: Trump 'fomented' Jan. 6 Capitol assault

Sean D. Naylor
·National Security Correspondent
·2 min read
James Mattis
Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis. (Gary He/Reuters)

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol was “fomented” by former President Donald Trump, and exemplified the “internal threats” faced by the U.S. that should be viewed “with every bit as much gravity as the external problems, and perhaps more so.”

Speaking during an online event, Mattis walked through a list of national security threats such as North Korea, Russia, China and international terrorism, but then turned his attention to the U.S.

“There are also internal threats right now,” he said, citing “the lack of unity on the consensual underpinnings of our democracy, and what we saw on Jan. 6, fomented by a sitting president.”

But Mattis also identified globalism as a root cause of the divisions that led to the pro-Trump mob’s attack on Jan. 6. “Globalism hasn’t been altogether good in large parts of our country,” he said, adding that “certain trade deals” had had “second- and third-order effects inside our own country,” hurting some Americans economically and leaving them without hope for the future.

“People are much more inclined to listen to conspiracy theories and other things when they’re losing hope,” Mattis said.

Mattis was referring to the assault on the Capitol by hundreds of Trump supporters seeking to prevent Congress from formalizing Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in the November presidential election.

Pro-Trump protesters
Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

After forcing their way through police lines, the attackers rampaged through the building, stealing numerous items from the House chamber and congressional offices as then-Vice President Mike Pence and members of both the House and the Senate were quickly evacuated to safe rooms.

One of the rioters, Ashli Babbitt, was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to break through a door to get closer to the House chamber. Three others, including a Capitol Police officer, died during the assault.

Mattis, a Marine four-star general who retired in 2013 after a three-year tour as head of U.S. Central Command, served as Trump’s first defense secretary from January 2017 to December 2018.

He made the comments in the webcast conversation with former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, who said that the country faced a “growing threat from white nationalists and other domestic extremists.”

Noting that “our oath to the Constitution requires us to defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Vickers, a former Special Forces officer, said that “never in our worst nightmares did we imagine that we would witness an insurrection against our government incited by some of our top leaders.”

Their conversation was webcast by the OSS Society, which seeks to highlight the legacy of the World War II-era Office of Strategic Services.

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