Former US secretary of state Colin Powell has endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, joining a growing chorus of Republicans and military leaders criticising Republican President Donald Trump amid nationwide protests.
- Several groups of Republicans oppose Mr Trump’s bid for a second term as president
- More Republicans could come out against Mr Trump as momentum against his leadership picks up inside the party
- Mr Powell’s comments are seen as a rare move given his background in the Republican party and the military
Mr Powell a Republican who led the US military during the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq and later headed the State Department said Mr Trump “lies all the time”, has “drifted away” from the US constitution and poses a danger to American democracy.
“I cannot in any way support President Trump this year,” Mr Powell, who did not vote for the Republican president in 2016, told CNN.
Mr Trump responded by calling Mr Powell a “real stiff” on Twitter.
The criticism comes as the nation faces a trio of crises: widespread protests over police violence against African American men, the coronavirus pandemic and a sharp economic downturn.
Powell joins other senior Republicans condemning Trump
It is rare for Republicans to criticise Mr Trump directly, and more so for members of the military establishment, who typically stay out of politics.
Mr Trump’s former defence secretary, retired General James Mattis, last week denounced what he called Mr Trump’s “deliberate” efforts to divide the country.
James Mattis recently criticised Mr Trump’s response to nationwide demonstrations triggered by the killing of George Floyd.(Reuters: Mike Segar)
Former joint chiefs of staff chairmen Michael Mullen and Martin Dempsey have also criticised Mr Trump’s handling of the unrest.
Republican senator Lisa Murkowski said last week that she was “struggling” with whether to support Mr Trump’s re-election, while Republican senator Mitt Romney praised Mr Mattis’s words.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that George W Bush would not vote for Mr Trump, citing sources close to the only living Republican former president.
Many of the Republicans now criticising Mr Trump also did not vote for him in 2016.
Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, said Mr Trump has record support within the Republican Party.
“However, the adoration of the liberal beltway media is alluring and powerfully attractive to some [Washington] DC insiders,” he said.
Since winning the White House, Mr Trump has demanded fierce Republican loyalty.
Many former critics, such as Senator Lindsay Graham, have become ardent backers.
More Republicans could turn on Trump
Several Republican groups have formed to oppose Mr Trump’s re-election, including a super political action committee (PAC), the Lincoln Project, and a new initiative called Republican Voters Against Trump, which last week kicked off a $US10 million ($14.35 million) digital ad campaign.
“There are legions of privately concerned Republicans in Washington,” said Tim Miller, who advised Republican Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign and helped launch Republicans Voting Against Trump.
Public denunciations from senior figures like Mr Powell could turn more people against Mr Trump.(AP: Evan Vucci)
“That doesn’t do a whole lot for me. If you’re not willing to say it, you may as well put on the red hat,” Mr Miller said, referring to the Trump campaign’s “Make America Great Again” caps.
Mr Powell said he would vote for Mr Biden, going a step further than some other Republicans who have said they do not support Mr Trump but have not backed his Democratic rival.
“I haven’t voted for him, so I’m not going to start now, but that’s a different question from actively supporting Biden,” said Mark Sanford, the former Republican South Carolina governor who mounted a brief primary challenge to the president last year.
The public denunciations from figures including Mr Powell and Senator Murkowski could sway more Republicans, Mr Sanford said.
“When these dominoes start to fall, they can fall a lot faster than people think,” he said.