Exclusive: Dozens of Republican former U.S. national security officials to back Biden
By Tim Reid
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dozens of Republican former US security officials are forming a group that will support Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. This is another sign that President Donald Trump has alienated some members of his own party.
The group will publicly support Biden in the coming weeks, and its members plan to promote the former vice president who will challenge Trump in the November 3 election, sources said. It includes at least two dozen officials working under Republican President Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, with dozens of other talks, added the sources.
They will argue that another four years of a Trump presidency would jeopardize US national security and that Republican voters should view Biden as the better choice despite political differences, the sources said.
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The initiative is led by John Bellinger III and Ken Wainstein, the participants said, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Both held senior positions under George W. Bush. Bellinger was a legal advisor to the National Security Council and the State Department. Wainstein was Bush's homeland security advisor and chief of staff to former FBI director Robert Mueller.
Another member of the group, the sources say, is Robert Blackwill, who acted as a foreign policy advisor and ambassador to India under both Bushes and George W. Bush. The group includes a number of independents and officials from outside the national security arena, the sources said.
"Trump is friends with dictators. He is a real danger," said one person involved in the group on condition of anonymity.
The group could go public before the Democratic National Convention in August if Biden officially becomes his party's candidate, but a launch date has not yet been set, the sources said. Opinion polls show that Biden has a growing lead over Trump.
Trump, who found no significant resistance in finding his party's nomination for a second term, has been sharply criticized in the past few weeks by numerous retired military leaders and former members of his government. The criticism was triggered by Trump's call for a militarized response to protests in US cities against racism and police brutality, and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Other groups of anti-Trump Republicans are also against his re-election, including the Lincoln Project, co-founded by George Conway, husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway. Anti-Trump ads appear in major battlefield countries.
Bellinger, Wainstein and Blackwill have previously spoken out against Trump. They were among the approximately 50 Republicans who signed a letter in August 2016 after Trump was named Republican presidential candidate. They warned of the dangers of a Trump presidency and vowed not to vote for him.
Trump expressed contempt for republican and conservative figures who opposed him and said on Twitter last year that such "never trumper republicans" are "human scum".
"BROADEST POSSIBLE COALITION"
TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said Trump had poorly managed US foreign policy and damaged relations with foreign allies.
"Joe Biden is running for the president to unite this country and clear up Donald Trump's chaos, and we are building the broadest possible coalition that includes republicans who are horrified at what they have seen in the past four years "said Ducklo.
Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump's campaign, made a statement apparently referring to Biden's 2002 vote as a United States senator who approved the war in Iraq that George W. Bush launched the following year.
"Not surprisingly, the same people who brought us endless wars that have resulted in thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars wasted in the Middle East are on the side of a warmonger like Joe Biden," said Murtaugh.
Trump has been unusually criticized by members of the military, including prominent retired generals such as James Mattis, his first Secretary of Defense, and Colin Powell, who served as Secretary of State under George W. Bush. Both denounced Trump's reaction to the protests that broke out in Minneapolis police custody after the death of an African American named George Floyd on May 25.
In addition, the current top U.S. military officer, General Mark Milley, regretted accompanying Trump on a walk from the White House to a nearby church after the demonstrators were violently removed by law enforcement officers.
"Powell, Mattis, Milley - they got people to support Joe Biden," said the person involved in the new group.
Powell has already advocated Biden and said Trump "deviated" from the US constitution and was a threat to American democracy. Mattis accused Trump of trying to divide Americans.
Most recently, Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton said Trump was unable to be president, and accused him in a new book of misdeeds, including seeking help from Chinese President Xi Jinping to win the reelection.
(Reporting by Tim Reid; editing by Soyoung Kim and Will Dunham)
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