50 GOP national security officials repudiate Trump
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50 GOP national security officials repudiate Trump

Former members of Republican administrations warn nominee would be ‘most reckless president in American history’

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers an economic policy address detailing his economic plan at the Detroit Economic Club August 8, 2016 in Detroit Michigan. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images/AFP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers an economic policy address detailing his economic plan at the Detroit Economic Club August 8, 2016 in Detroit Michigan. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images/AFP)

A group of 50 former GOP national security officials has signed an open letter opposing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying he is unqualified for the presidency and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

In the letter, published by the New York Times on Monday, the signatories said Trump “lacks the character, values, and experience to be President.”

Those who signed worked for former Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and said they were convinced that Trump would be “the most reckless president in American history.

“He appears to lack basic knowledge about and belief in the US Constitution, US laws, and US institutions…(He) has demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding of America’s vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances, and the democratic values on which US foreign policy must be based,” it said.

In their withering critique, the officials went on to say the nominee displays “an alarming ignorance of basic facts… is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood…lacks self-control and acts impetuously… cannot tolerate personal criticism.”

The signatories vowed not to vote for the Republican nominee in the general election. While they acknowledged they had concerns about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, they stressed that Trump “is not the answer.”

The letter is similar to one issued by some of the same Republican former officials and foreign policy experts in March. The letter released Monday does contain some new names, however, including former UN Ambassador John Negroponte, former CIA director Michael Hayden and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.

Michael Hayden during his tenure as CIA head (photo credit CC BY CIA/Wikipedia)
Michael Hayden during his tenure as CIA head (CC BY-CIA/Wikipedia)

None of the living former Republican secretaries of state signed the letter, although Condoleezza Rice’s ex-chief of staff, Brian Gunderson, is among the signatories.

Trump said in response to the letter that they were the reason the world was “a mess.”

He said their signatures make clear they’re to blame for making the world so dangerous, calling them “failed Washington elite” who must be held accountable.

He claimed that they, along with Clinton, were responsible for the rise of the Islamic State group.

Supporters listen to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speak at a rally on August 5, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Darren Hauck/Getty Images/AFP)
Supporters listen to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speak at a rally on August 5, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Darren Hauck/Getty Images/AFP)

Meanwhile desperate conservatives have circulated a petition calling for the Republican National Committee to host a special meeting where Trump could be replaced as the party’s presidential nominee.

Organizers — some of the same Republicans who tried to prevent Trump from winning the GOP nomination — acknowledge the effort is a long shot at best. But fearing an Election Day disaster, they have appealed to RNC members across the nation in recent days to intervene.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Regina Thomson, executive director of a political action committee known as the GOP Accountability Project, wrote in an e-mail distributed to RNC members over the weekend and obtained by The Associated Press.

“Donald J. Trump is a disaster,” Thomson wrote, attaching a copy of the petition in the message. “His post-convention behavior has been deplorable.”

Trump has worried many leading Republicans in recent weeks with a string of controversies and fights, notably with the Muslim American parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq and prominent Republicans up for re-election. Trump reversed course and ended up endorsing House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

Still, Thomson and other anti-Trump Republicans are concerned.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Janesville, Wisconsin, June 2, 2016. (AP/Andy Manis)
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Janesville, Wisconsin, June 2, 2016. (AP/Andy Manis)

Party rules allow RNC members to replace a presidential nominee in the event of “death, declination, or otherwise” — language Trump critics say allows for his replacement soon after he formally captured his party’s presidential nomination at the national convention. To force a meeting to discuss Trump’s ouster, however, organizers must submit signatures by at least 16 RNC members from 16 states.

Should they do so, GOP chairman Reince Priebus has 10 to 20 days to convene the full, 168-member Republican National Committee.

“This is the same story over and over again,” said RNC spokesman Sean Spicer, dismissing the latest effort. He suggested that the Trump rebels have “a credibility problem” after repeated failed attempts to block Trump’s nomination at the convention.

Even after Trump ended his feud by endorsing Ryan last Friday night, a fresh wave of Republican operatives — and even a handful of elected officials — vowed to vote for someone else or even leave the GOP altogether.

“We’re concerned he’s on a path to destruction and we’re trying to avert that,” Thomson said in a Monday interview.

The Colorado Republican, the former state chairwoman for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, said she has received verbal commitments from party officials willing to sign the petition, but declined to say how many or who they are.

Several RNC members, reached by the AP on Monday, acknowledged deep frustration with Trump’s candidacy, but said they would not sign the petition. None were willing to give their names for fear they would be associated with the move.

“It is a difficult path but we are supportive of their efforts,” said Republican operative Dane Waters, who led an anti-Trump effort at the convention. “It is important that all options be considered and tried. Priebus should never have allowed this to happen.”

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