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Former Navy Secretary Sean O'Keefe

Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Almost 500 national security experts — including 22 four-star military officers — slammed Donald Trump in a public letter released Thursday, calling him unfit for his role as commander in chief and endorsing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The letter, simply addressed "To Our Fellow Citizens," is a bipartisan effort signed by prominent Republicans and Democrats alike who say they "fear" for their country under Trump. Signatories include former Navy Secretary and NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, who served in both Bush administrations, and former Defense Secretaries Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, and Ash Carter.

Former State Department Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, a Republican who served under George W. Bush, as well as Democrats former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former national security adviser Susan Rice also joined their ranks.

Some signers served under Trump and only recently retired, including Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who retired in 2012 and was previously the second highest-ranking officer in the Army, told NPR: "I believe the current administration is a real threat to the republic," citing the Trump administration's poor foreign policy and coronavirus response.

The letter writers similarly note that the next president will inherit "a world in turmoil," calling out Trump's abysmal pandemic response, his concession to Russian influence, and his trade war against China. The letter also mentions the worsening of climate change, the risks of North Korea's nuclear program, and the economic recession due to the coronavirus.

"Thanks to his disdainful attitude and his failures, our allies no longer trust or respect us, and our enemies no longer fear us," the writers said.

Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution, criticized Trump's "seat of his pants" decisions and noted that Bob Woodward's new book "Rage" revealed how perilously close Trump was in 2017 to steering the United States into war with North Korea.

Former Navy Secretary O'Keefe said the letter was intended in part as an effort to reach undecided voters.

In the letter, officials endorse Biden for president, saying he has "the character, principles, wisdom and leadership necessary to address a world on fire."

Trump's castigation by senior military officials and security experts comes closely on the heels of widespread reporting earlier this month of his alleged remarks calling fallen service members "losers" and "suckers."

In a separate incident this month, Trump was also widely criticized for comments swiping at top-ranking military officials.

"The top people in the Pentagon probably (don't like me), because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy," Trump said earlier this month.

In the wake of controversy, more and more service members say they'll vote for Biden, as support for Trump among the military dwindles. In the results of polling by the Military Times conducted at the end of July and beginning of August, Biden had a nearly 4 point lead (41.3% to 37.4%) among veterans and active-duty military troops, with 49.9% saying they had an "unfavorable" view of the current White House occupant.

This is a break with long-standing trends of broad Republican support in the military ranks, since 59% of military veterans identify as Republican compared to 44% of the general population.

The military's concerns regarding Trump are starkly expressed in today's letter.

"(Trump) has demonstrated he is not equal to the enormous responsibilities of his office," the writers say. "He cannot rise to meet challenges large or small."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.