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Why a former senior Trump admin official is backing Biden

There are an extraordinary number of officials who worked closely with Donald Trump and who are now practically begging Americans to vote against him.
Image: The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Washington in 2018.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Washington in 2018.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

There are a variety of things that make the 2020 presidential race unusual, but among the most amazing is the extraordinary number of officials close to the incumbent president who are practically begging Americans to vote against him.

As of yesterday, we can add Miles Taylor to the list. Taylor, a Republican political appointee who served as chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post yesterday, explaining that he can attest with first-hand knowledge that the United State is "less secure as a direct result' of Donald Trump's actions.

"Top DHS officials were regularly diverted from dealing with genuine security threats by the chore of responding to these inappropriate and often absurd executive requests, at all hours of the day and night. One morning it might be a demand to shut off congressionally appropriated funds to a foreign ally that had angered him, and that evening it might be a request to sharpen the spikes atop the border wall so they'd be more damaging to human flesh ('How much would that cost us?'). Meanwhile, Trump showed vanishingly little interest in subjects of vital national security interest, including cybersecurity, domestic terrorism and malicious foreign interference in U.S. affairs."

The op-ed coincided with the release of a new video from Republican Voters Against Trump, in which Miles reflected on personally witnessing the president's corruption and ineptitude, at one point directing Homeland Security officials to deny wildfire-relief aid to California because the state didn't support him.

"A lot of times the things he wanted to do not only were impossible but in many cases illegal. He didn't want us to tell him it was illegal anymore because he knew, and these were his words, he knew that he had 'magical' authorities.... What we saw week in and week out, for me, after two and a half years in that administration, was terrifying. We would go in to try to talk to him about a pressing national security issue -- cyberattack, terrorism threat -- he wasn't interested in those things. To him, they weren't priorities."

In the video, Miles added, "Given what I have experienced in the administration, I have to support Joe Biden for president and even though I am not a Democrat, even though I disagree on key issues, I'm confident that Joe Biden will protect the country and I'm confident that he won't make the same mistakes as this president."

If Miles were the only Republican member of Trump's team making this case, it'd still be remarkable story. But what makes his public criticisms all the more important is that he's not alone. We continue to witness an unprecedented political dynamic unfolding in an election year: former White House and administration officials who worked closely with the president, and who are now warning the public about what they learned.

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 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.

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 Republicans like Taylor, Bolton, and Mattis are in a qualitatively different category. These are 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 they've left the administration and had an opportunity to reflect on their time in the administration, these same Republicans want Americans to 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 leading members of Trump's own team denounce him, it should give everyone pause.