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John Kelly in the White House in July 2017. Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly defended James Mattis on Thursday after President Trump attacked the former defense secretary as "the world's most overrated general" and claimed on Twitter that he was fired.

What he's saying: “The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly told the Washington Post in an interview. “The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused."

  • "The president tweeted a very positive tweet about Jim until he started to see on Fox News their interpretation of his letter," Kelly added. "Then he got nasty. Jim Mattis is a honorable man."

The big picture: Mattis made headlines on Wednesday by condemning President Trump for making a "mockery of our Constitution," writing in a blistering statement that he was "appalled" at the president's response to mass protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

  • Trump tweeted on Wednesday evening in response: "Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it."

Go deeper: Read Mattis' full statement

Go deeper

Woodward book: Former intel chief Dan Coats believed "Putin had something on Trump"

Trump and Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Former director of national intelligence Dan Coats could not shake his "deep suspicions" that Russian President Vladimir Putin "had something" on President Trump, seeing "no other explanation" for the president's behavior, according to Bob Woodward's new book "Rage," which was obtained by CNN ahead of its publication next week.

Why it matters: Coats was the president's top intelligence official from March 2017 until August 2019. Woodward reports that Coats and his staff examined the intelligence regarding Trump's ties to Russia "as carefully as possible" and that he "still questions the relationship" between Trump and Putin despite the apparent absence of intelligence proof.

Mark Meadows: I wouldn't have recommended Woodward's WH access

President Trump confers with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the White House on Sept. 1. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Fox News Wednesday he wouldn't have recommended that Bob Woodward gain the extensive White House access the journalist did for his interviews with President Trump.

Why it matters: Trump has faced criticism following leaks of Woodward's new book "Rage," particularly for his comments during on-the-record interviews earlier this year that his approach to the coronavirus pandemic was to "play it down" to avoid a panic — something Meadows used in defense of the president during his interview.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus may have been in U.S. in December 2019, study finds — Hospital crisis deepens as holiday season nears.
  2. Politics: Bipartisan group of senators unveil $908 billion COVID stimulus proposalFDA chief was called to West Wing to explain why agency hasn't moved faster on vaccine — The words that actually persuade people on the pandemic
  3. Vaccine: Moderna to file for FDA emergency use authorizationVaccinating rural America won't be easy — Being last in the vaccine queue is young people's next big COVID test.
  4. States: Cuomo orders emergency hospital protocols as New York's COVID capacity dwindles.
  5. World: European regulators to assess first COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 29
  6. 🎧 Podcast: The state of play of the top vaccines.