US Politics

Colin Powell backs Joe Biden for US president, says Donald Trump has 'drifted away' from the Constitution

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2008. Source: AAP

Republican Colin Powell has called US President Donald Trump "ineffective" and says he will vote for Democrat candidate Joe Biden.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, joining a growing chorus of Republicans and military leaders criticising Republican President Donald Mr Trump amid nationwide protests.

Mr Powell, a Republican who led the US military during the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq under President George HW Bush and later headed the State Department under President George W Bush, said Mr Trump “lies all the time,” has “drifted away” from the US Constitution and poses a danger to American democracy.

“I cannot in any way support President Trump this year,” Mr Powell, who did not vote for the Republican president in 2016, told CNN.

Colin Powell. (AAP)
A file photo of Colin Powell

The criticism comes as the nation faces a trio of crises: widespread protests over police violence against black men and women, the coronavirus pandemic and a sharp economic downturn. It is rare for Republicans to criticise Mr Trump directly, and more so for members of the military establishment, who typically stay out of politics.

Mr Trump’s former defense secretary, retired General Jim Mattis, last week denounced what he called Mr Trump’s “deliberate” efforts to divide the country. Former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmen Michael Mullen and Martin Dempsey have also criticised Mr Trump’s handling of the unrest.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said last week that she was “struggling” with whether to support Mr Trump’s reelection, while Republican Senator Mitt Romney praised Mattis’ words.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that George W Bush would not vote for Mr Trump, citing sources close to the only living Republican former president.

Many of the Republicans now criticising Mr Trump also did not vote for him in 2016.

Since his victory, Mr Trump has secured an iron grip on Republican loyalty. Former critics including Senators Lindsay Graham and Rob Portman have become ardent backers.

Several Republican groups have formed to oppose Mr Trump’s reelection, including a super PAC, the Lincoln Project, and a new initiative called Republican Voters Against Mr Trump, which last week kicked off a $10 million digital ad campaign.

President Donald Trump walks past police in Lafayette Park after visiting outside St. John's Church across from the White House in Washington.
President Donald Trump walks past police in Lafayette Park after visiting outside St. John's Church across from the White House in Washington.

“There are legions of privately concerned Republicans in Washington,” said Tim Miller, who advised Republican Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign and helped launch Republicans Voting Against Mr Trump.

“That doesn’t do a whole lot for me. If you’re not willing to say it, you may as well put on the red hat,” he added, referring to Mr Trump’s signature campaign baseball cap.

Mr Powell said he would vote for Mr Biden, going a step further than some other Republicans who have said they do not support Mr Trump but have not backed his Democratic rival.

“I haven’t voted for him, so I’m not going to start now, but that’s a different question from actively supporting Biden,” said Mark Sanford, the former Republican South Carolina governor who mounted a brief primary challenge to Mr Trump last year.

The public denunciations from figures including Mr Powell and Ms Murkowski could sway more Republicans, Sanford said.

“When these dominoes start to fall, they can fall a lot faster than people think,” he said.

Mr Trump, who has been critical of the Iraq war, in a tweet called Mr Powell “a real stiff.”

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