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Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

A group of 73 Republican national security officials and former Republican members of Congress issued a statement Thursday expressing support for Joe Biden's campaign, saying they will vote for the former VP rather than President Trump this fall.

Flashback: The same group released a statement in 2016 foreshadowing that Trump "would be the most reckless president in American history," the New York Times notes. “When we wrote in 2016, we were warning against a vote for Donald Trump, but many of the signatories were not ready to embrace his opponent,” said John Bellinger, a former State Department and National Security Council legal adviser, who was among the authors of both letters.

  • “This is different: Each of the signatories has said he or she will vote for Biden. Signatories are now even more concerned about Trump, and have fewer concerns about Biden,” said Bellinger, per the Times.

That stark tone continued with Thursday's statement, noting that Trump has "gravely damaged America's role as a world leader."

The big picture: Several Republicans have come out against Trump in recent weeks, with some publicly sharing their votes for Biden, and others, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking at the Democratic National Convention this week.

The state of play: Officials from the Trump, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Reagan administrations signed Thursday's statement released by Defending Democracy Together, an advocacy group developed in 2018 by anti-Trump Republicans, including:

  • Former NSA and CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden, former Deputy Secretary of State and DNI director Amb. John Negroponte, and former CIA and FBI director William Webster.
  • Four former Trump administration officials: Former DHS chief of staff Miles Taylor, former DHS assistant secretary Elizabeth Neumann, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Robert Shanks, and former general counsel of DHS John Mitnick.

What they're saying: "Through his actions and his rhetoric, Trump has demonstrated that he lacks the character and competence to lead this nation and has engaged in corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve as President."

  • "Instead of rallying the American people and the world to confront the coronavirus, Trump has spent the past half year spreading misinformation, undermining public health experts, attacking state and local officials, and wallowing in self-pity."
  • "Trump has regularly praised the actions of dictators and human rights abusers. He proclaimed his 'love' and 'great respect' for North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un, endorsed 'brilliant leader' Xi Jinping’s move to serve as China’s president for life, repeatedly sided with Vladimir Putin against our own intelligence community, and pronounced himself a 'big fan' of Turkish president Recep Erdogan despite his crackdown on democracy."
  • "In contrast, we believe Joe Biden has the character, experience, and temperament to lead this nation. We believe he will restore the dignity of the presidency, bring Americans together, reassert America’s role as a global leader, and inspire our nation to live up to its ideals."

Of note, via the Times: "[W]ithin the Republican national security establishment, there are arguments about whether such letters actually harm Mr. Trump or help him."

Go deeper

Updated Nov 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump gives Biden access to presidential intelligence briefings

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Trump White House on Tuesday gave President-elect Biden access to daily presidential intelligence briefings, a source familiar with the matter tells Axios.

Why it matters: Trump has refused to share the briefs until now, as he continues to challenge the result of the election and declines to concede. The president's acquiescence comes as another sign that the transition to a Biden administration is taking place.

Nov 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump pardons Michael Flynn

President Trump with Michael Flynn in 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation to lying to FBI agents about his conversations with a former Russian ambassador.

Why it matters: It is the first of multiple pardons expected in the coming weeks, as Axios scooped Tuesday night.

“You blew it”: GOP activist turns on corporations over vaccine mandates

The chairman of the American Conservative Union said on "Axios on HBO" he accepts "Joe Biden is my president, and I want him to succeed," but predicted Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022 — with greater than 50% odds Donald Trump runs in 2024.

The big picture: In a joint interview with his wife, Mercedes, Matt Schlapp also refused to share their vaccination status. And he told corporate America "you blew it" by embracing vaccine mandates and liberal social stances that have alienated GOP voters and politicians.