Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday denounced President Donald Trump’s response to nationwide protests over racial injustice amid the death of George Floyd, contesting that Trump “drifted away” from the constitution he swore to protect.
Powell, a retired Army general and one of several prominent former military and government leaders to publicly broadside the president in recent days told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he’d be voting for former Vice President Joe Biden come November.
“We have a constitution. And we have to follow that constitution,” Powell told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “The President has drifted away from it.”
The president tweeted a response declaring Powell “a real stiff.”
Powell is the first African American to serve as Secretary of State and as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Look at what he has done to divide us,” Powell said of Trump, who received bipartisan criticism last week after a protest near the White House was cleared out in advance of a Washington, D.C. curfew before the president walked to a church for a photo op.
“I think what we’re seeing now, this massive protest movement … I think it suggests the country is getting wise to this and we’re not going to put up with it anymore,” Powell added.
Floyd died after being pinned down by a white Minneapolis police officer for nearly 9 minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, faces a second-degree murder charge; three others have been charged in aiding and abetting. But protests in cities across the country have continued for more than a week.
Trump’s former Secretary of Defense, retired Gen. Jim Mattis said in a statement last week that “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.”
Trump’s former chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly, said he agreed with Mattis and that there was an “awful big concern that the partisanship has gotten out of hand.”
“I’m proud of what they’re doing,” Powell said Sunday of his former colleagues. “I’m proud that they were willing to take the risk of speaking honesty and speaking truth to those who are not speaking truth.”
The president has expressed sympathy for the Floyd family and peaceful protesters several times. He called for expedited investigations into Floyd’s death, but has come under fire for not directly addressing systemic racism in the country. On Friday, he said his “plan” to address racism was, “We’re going to have the strongest economy in the world.”
Trump has frequently called for a crackdown on “thugs” and “lowlife scum,” and has said he would use all resources, including the U.S. military, to quell violence.
Trump responded to Powell’s remarks by bringing up the Iraq War.
“Colin Powell, a real stiff who was very responsible for getting us into the disastrous Middle East Wars, just announced he will be voting for another stiff, Sleepy Joe Biden,” Trump tweeted after the interview. “Didn’t Powell say that Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction?’ They didn’t, but off we went to WAR!” sources from MassLive.com
More than a week of demonstrations against police brutality across the U.S. initially turned violent in some cities, though they’ve recently been mostly peaceful. On Sunday, Trump ordered the National Guard to start withdrawing from Washington D.C. after a massive but peaceful protest in the city Saturday.
A number of other former military officials continued to criticize Trump on Sunday political talk shows.
“Many of us watched the use of active-duty military to clear peaceful protesters out of Lafayette Square, and it rang echoes of what the founders feared more than anything which was the use of armed active-duty military against citizens,” retired Admiral James Stavridis said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
A “whole spectrum” of former military leaders “jumped and felt that shock of watching active-duty troops clear peaceful protesters. Wrong answer,” said Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of NATO. Stavridis is also a Bloomberg Opinion columnist.
“Our military should never be called to fight our own people as enemies of the state. And that quite frankly for me really tipped it over,” retired Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on “Fox News Sunday.”Mullen wrote an essay for The Atlantic magazine last week criticizing the decision to use members of the National Guard and other security personnel to clear Lafayette Square near the White House last week, sources from NewsMax.com