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'I can be silent no longer': former intel official denounces Trump

Perhaps the most under-appreciated element of the 2020 race: the staggering number of people who've worked directly with Trump and now want to see him lose
Image: Donald Trump, William Barr
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Republican state attorneys general in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Sept. 23, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

Robert Cardillo may not be recognized by much of the public, but his background commands respect. He served as director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He managed, edited, and delivered the President's Daily Brief, spending hundreds of mornings in the Oval Office with different presidents. Cardillo was also a deputy on the National Security Council, spending over 1,000 hours in the White House Situation Room.

He never registered with a political party or engaged in election activism. But Cardillo nevertheless wrote a new op-ed for the Denver Post denouncing Donald Trump, explaining why he "can be silent no longer."

I have briefed him up close -- and I have seen and felt the effect of his faults on our nation's security.... He has little patience for facts or data that do not comport with his personal world view. Thus, the conversations are erratic and less than fully thoughtful.

Cardillo's piece went on to decry Trump's coziness with dictators, his selfishness, his denigration of military service, and his pandemic ineptitude.

[A]s damaging as his faulty leadership has been, four more years would be devastating. We must elect a thoughtful, moral, responsible, respectful leader on Nov. 3. Our current president is not that leader.

I continue to think one of the most under-appreciated elements of the 2020 race is the staggering number of people who've worked closely with Trump and who now want to see him lose.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, the list isn't especially short. Former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton worked side by side with Trump for a year and a half, and he concluded that the president is not "fit for office."

Just two weeks before Bolton made this assessment, former Defense Secretary James Mattis, wrote a rather extraordinary rebuke of Trump, condemning the president for being divisive, immature, and cavalier about abusing his powers. Soon after, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, another veteran of Team Trump, publicly endorsed Mattis' criticisms.

Kelly added, "I think we need to look harder at who we elect. I think we should look at people that are running for office and put them through the filter: What is their character like? What are their ethics?"

It also wasn't long ago when former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shared some uncomplimentary thoughts of his own about Trump. According to the nation's former chief diplomat, the president is "pretty undisciplined," "doesn't like to read," and "often" urged Tillerson to pursue policies that were inconsistent with American laws.

Meanwhile, Miles Taylor, who worked with Trump as a chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, recently endorsed Joe Biden, as did Olivia Troye, who worked as a national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence for two years, and who also served as his top adviser on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Trump has faced even fiercer criticisms from his former personal attorney Michael Cohen and his former White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci.

Under normal circumstances, a president should expect criticisms from a rival party's members. A White House incumbent should similarly expect unflattering critiques from various pundits and commentators.

But it's qualitatively different to hear from officials who worked directly with Trump. They had a front-row seat, watching how the president tried to lead, how he processed information, how he evaluated evidence, and how he made decisions.

And now that these men and women have left the administration and had an opportunity to reflect on their time in the administration, they're eager to see Americans vote for someone else.

History offers plenty of examples of presidents who've clashed with one aide or another, but we've never seen anything like this.

I don't seriously expect the president's die-hard followers to listen to Trump's more progressive detractors, but when prominent members of Trump's own team denounce him, it should give everyone pause.

Update: The aforementioned list could probably include several other former national security leaders who also worked under Trump. Retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, who stepped down as commandant of the Coast Guard in June 2018, has had some especially notable criticisms of the current president.