The letter, signed by 489 former military and national security officials, says Donald Trump "cannot rise to meet challenges large or small"

By Sean Neumann
September 24, 2020 02:30 PM
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on September 20, 2020
| Credit: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty

Close to 500 former military and national security officials, including some former officials from President Donald Trump's administration, signed an open letter endorsing Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president on Thursday.

"We love our country. Unfortunately, we also fear for it," reads the letter, shared by Politico and other news outlets.

The letter, which says Biden, 77, is the "leader our nation needs," also takes veiled swipes at the 74-year-old president's handle on the military and foreign affairs.

"The current President has demonstrated he is not equal to the enormous responsibilities of his office; he cannot rise to meet challenges large or small," says the scathing review, signed by some the country's former top military officials. "Thanks to his disdainful attitude and his failures, our allies no longer trust or respect us, and our enemies no longer fear us."

Among the former national security officials who signed the letter is retired Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, who served as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before stepping down from the high-ranking position last year. (Selva was appointed to the position—the No. 2 officer in the Pentagon—by President Barack Obama in 2015.)

The Army's former No. 2 ranking officer, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who retired in 2012, told NPR he believed he "had to" speak out about the dangers he believes Trump poses. "I believe the current administration is a real threat to the republic," Gen. Chiarelli told the outlet.

Donald Trump walks to St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House on June 1, 2020 after military police forcibly cleared peaceful protesters from areas outside the White House.
| Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

The open letter says they believe Biden "has the experience and wisdom necessary to navigate America through a painful time."

"He has grappled with America’s most difficult foreign policy challenges for decades, learning what works—and what does not—in a dangerous world," the letter reads. "He is knowledgeable, but he also knows that listening to diverse and dissenting views is essential, particularly when making tough decisions concerning our national security."

The group of former military and national security officials' embrace of Biden, and rebuke of Trump, comes after the president received widespread backlash following an Atlantic report saying he allegedly called fallen U.S. soldiers "losers" after canceling a trip to a military cemetery out of fear that "his hair would become disheveled in the rain." (Trump denied the report while administration sources backed up the Atlantic's reporting.)

From left: former Vice President Joe Biden and former Second Lady Jill Biden at the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veteran's Memorial Park
President Donald Trump salutes at Arlington National Cemetery
| Credit: Chris Kleponis/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The Biden endorsement also comes after a tumultuous summer in which former officials within the president's administration spoke out against his management of the military both around the world and on U.S. soil.

After the Trump administration ordered military police to forcibly clear a group of peaceful protesters from the area outside the White House in early June—including firing tear gas on the crowd of American civilians—the president's former military officials denounced his decision as reckless and dangerous.

"Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us," former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who left the Trump administration in 2018, wrote in an open letter afterward.

"We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort," he continued, suggesting Trump as a threat to the U.S. and likening his leadership style to infamous military tactics used by the Nazis. "We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership."