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

Sanders: "This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy"

Photo: BernieSanders.com

In an urgent appeal on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said President Trump presented "unique threats to our democracy" and detailed a plan to ensure the election results will be honored and that voters can cast their ballots safely.

Driving the news: When asked yesterday whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, Trump would not, and said: "We're going to have to see what happens."

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Schumer on peaceful transfer of power: "Trump is not a dictator"

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday responded to President Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power should he lose the November election, telling CNN that Trump "is not a dictator, and the American people will not allow him to be one."

What he's saying: "The American people are wedded to democracy," Schumer said. "We believe in democracy, and the kind of thing Trump is talking about just will not happen."