Yet another former Trump admin official steps up, denounces Trump

History offers plenty of examples of presidents who've clashed with some members of their own team, but we've never seen anything quite like this.
President Donald J. Trump
President Donald J. Trump walks to board Marine One and depart from the South Lawn at the White House on Feb 7, 2020.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Imagesfile

By any fair measure, Josh Venable has a credible background in Republican politics. He helped lead the Michigan Republican Party; he worked for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R); and in the first two years of Donald Trump's presidency, he served as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' chief of staff.

But last month, Venable took on a new role, joining a group of former Trump administration officials -- the Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform -- who stand in opposition to the Republican incumbent.

In today's Detroit News, Venable has an op-ed explaining that he's not leaving the party he's been a part of his entire life, but he is "exhausted" by the president's failures.

Nearly all my career, I have worked for Republican candidates and conservative causes, managing campaigns, organizing coalitions and raising money.... But this is 2020, so of course this year is different. I cannot vote for the Republican nominee for president. For the good of the party I have supported my entire life, but more importantly, for the sake of the country I love, I implore all patriotic Republicans to join me.

Venable added that Donald Trump "thrives on purposely sowing strife and discord," something the former administration official says he's seen "up close and in person."

And it's those five words -- "up close and in person" -- that help make perspectives like these so interesting. Indeed, I continue to think one of the most under-appreciated elements of the 2020 race is the staggering number of people who've worked for and/or with Trump and who now want to see him lose.

This last came up about a month ago, when Robert Cardillo, a former intelligence official who served under several different presidents, wrote an op-ed for the Denver Post denouncing Trump, and highlighting the Republican incumbent's dramatic flaws, which Cardillo saw after having "briefed him up close."

He has a lot of company. As we discussed soon after, 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?" (CNN recently reported that Kelly has told friends that Trump "is the most flawed person" he's ever known.)

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, 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. Elizabeth Neumann, a former DHS assistant secretary for threat prevention, said the U.S. is "less safe today" because of Trump's leadership, and she too is backing Biden.

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

Meanwhile, several former national security leaders who also worked under Trump signed onto a joint letter endorsing Biden about a month ago. As NBC News noted, the list included Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, who served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Trump before he retired in August 2019; Vice Adm. Gardner Howe, a Navy SEAL leader who also retired last year; and retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, who oversaw the Coast Guard until 2018.

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 were part of Trump's own team. Many of these former officials 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.