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Former Trump officials are among the most vocal opponents of his return to the White House

NEW YORK (AP) — Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper called him a “threat to democracy.”former national security adviser John Bolton declared him “unfit to serve as president.” and the former vice president. Mike Pence refused to support him, citing “huge differences”.

as Donald Trump As he sought the presidency for a third time, he faced fierce opposition from a group of former officials who strongly warned him against returning to power and predicted dire consequences for the country and the rule of law if his bid was successful.

This is a high-profile group of critics, unprecedented in modern times, and they come from those who witnessed firsthand his actions in office and the turmoil that followed.

Former Trump aide Sarah Matthews, who appeared frustrated before a House committee on Jan. 6, was among those who warned of the threat he posed. She said it was “unbelievable” how many of his senior staff had condemned him.

“These guys got to see him up close and personal and see his leadership style,” Matthews said.

“The American people should listen to what these people are saying, because it should be shocking that people who were hired to work for Trump in his first term are saying that he is unfit for a second term.”

However, critics remain in the minority. Republican politicians and officials across the party are backing Trump’s campaign — some reluctantly, others enthusiastically. Many aides and cabinet officials who served on Trump’s staff have backed his campaign. another termthe Trump campaign was quick to emphasize this point.

“The majority of those who serve in President Trump’s Cabinet and his administration, like the majority of Americans, overwhelmingly support his candidacy to defeat the distorters. Joe Biden And take back the White House,” said Trump campaign advocate Steven Cheung.

Still, the Biden campaign has been heavily criticizing former Trump officials in statements and social media posts, hoping to convince at least some Republican voters — including those of other candidates during the Republican primary — that they cannot support his candidacy.

“Those who have worked with Donald Trump at the highest levels of his administration believe he is too dangerous, too selfish and too extreme to lead our country again — and we agree,” Biden running mate Amal Moussa said.

In many ways, the schism among former Trump officials is an extension of his time in the White House. Friction has persisted as Trump’s demands have been met with resistance from some officials and aides, who have rejected what they consider to be misguided, unrealistic and sometimes outright rejections. illegal. Firings were frequent. Many people resigned.

The staff unrest was especially intense in the chaotic weeks after the 2020 election as Trump worked to overturn his loss to Biden. Trump summoned his supporters to Washington on January 6, 2021, as his supporters. lie Concerns about a stolen election became a rallying cry for supporters, who used violent tactics Breaching the U.S. Capitol.many People serving in government resign in protestincluding Matthews.

Trump has tried to stay in office, including by applying harsh pressure on Pence, who as vice president is responsible for presiding over the Electoral College vote count on January 6. Trump insisted that Pence should prevent Biden from becoming president, which he did. no power things to do.burns had to escape On January 6, rioters stormed the Senate chamber, shouting “Hang Mike Pence!”

burns said recently Although proud of what they have accomplished together, he “cannot in good conscience” support Trump because of January 6 and other issues.

Pence is not alone.

Esper, who was fired by Trump days after the 2020 election, clashed with the then-president on multiple issues, including Trump’s push to deploy the military to respond to civil unrest after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020.

in the most recent interview On HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Esper again warned Trump was a “threat to democracy,” adding, “I think there’s a lot to worry about.”

“There’s no way I’m going to vote for Trump, but every day Trump does something crazy, the door opens a little bit to vote for Biden, and that’s where I am,” Esper said.

Trump’s most vocal critics include former aides who worked closely with him in the White House, three in particular gain prominence Testify about the Jan. 6 attack and Trump’s push to overturn the election.

The group includes Matthews, former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farrah Griffin and Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. They have given a series of interviews in recent months to speak out against their former boss.

“Fundamentally, a second Trump term could mean the end of American democracy as we know it, and I don’t say that lightly,” Griffin told ABC in December.

Trump’s former chief of staff, John Kelly, also had a long-standing feud with Trump. In a lengthy statement to CNN in October, Kelly described Trump as “a man who admires dictators and murderous dictators” and has “nothing but contempt for our country.” Democracy, our Constitution and the rule of law. “

Former Pence adviser Olivia Troye, who left the White House in 2020, and former press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who took office on January 6, are both outspoken critics who said they Won’t vote for Trump in 2020.

Even Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr, has not ruled out voting for him again, calling Trump a “consummate narcissist” who “constantly engages in reckless behavior. Putting his political followers at risk and putting the conservative and Republican agenda at risk.” ”.

Still, former officials who oppose Trump’s campaign far outnumber those who support him.

Linda McMahon, who headed the Small Business Administration under Trump, co-hosted a ceremony for the former president in Florida on Saturday with former Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Big fundraiser.

McMahon is also chairman of the board of directors of the America First Policy Institute, which is packed with former officials who support Trump and has been described as “waiting for a second Trump administration.”

The institute is led by Brooke Rollins, Trump’s former domestic policy chief, and includes Pence’s national security adviser and retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, as well as former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Trump U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and former National Party congressman. Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow.

Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and former Housing Secretary Ben Carson both campaigned for Trump, with Carson calling Trump “a friend of America.”

Trump also received support from former acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell, former Interior secretary and Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, and Russell Vought, the head of Trump’s Office of Management and Budget. .

Watt said in the post On X, Trump is “the only person I trust to bring the wrecking ball to the Deep State.”

Trump supporters were also quick to dismiss critics within the party.

Carmen McIlwain, who attended Trump’s rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, said those who speak negatively against Trump or refuse to support him are “RINOs,” or Republicans in name only. Help Biden and the Democrats.

“There are a lot of RINOs that are not doing what they should be doing,” McIlwain said. “It’s time for everyone to get behind us and give it their all.”


Associated Press writer Adriana Gomez Licon in Green Bay, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.

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