James Mattis, the former defence secretary who resigned from Donald Trump’s administration in 2018, staged a rare intervention on Wednesday to criticise the president for his response to nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.

Writing in The Atlantic, he said he was “appalled” at Mr Trump’s actions and accused the president of using the military to violate the constitutional rights of Americans.

“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” he wrote.

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“The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.”

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