Conservative national security experts oppose Trump

Richard Lardner
Associated Press

Washington — Dozens of conservative national security experts are warning that Republicans presidential candidate Donald Trump is unfit to be commander in chief.

In a letter released late Wednesday, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and more than 70 other experts wrote that they have disagreed with one another on a variety of issues but are united in their opposition to a Trump presidency.

They called Trump “fundamentally dishonest” and said his support for the expanded use of torture against suspected terrorists is inexcusable. They also cited Trump’s “hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric,” his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his advocacy for waging trade wars, which they say would lead to economic disaster in a globally connected world.

The letter was posted on the web site War On The Rocks, an online forum for foreign policy and national security commentary.

Other experts who signed the letter are Fran Townsend, former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President George W. Bush; Eliot Cohen, former counselor to the State Department; Dov Zakheim, former Pentagon comptroller; and Robert Zoellick, former president of the World Bank.

The letter was released the evening before 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney verbally lashed Trump in a speech at the University of Utah. Romney called Trump dangerous and a fake. He said that if Republicans choose Trump to be their presidential nominee, “the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.”

The experts who signed the letter said they’ll work to prevent Trump’s election, a stance that suggests there may be a shallow pool of experienced conservative national security professionals willing to join Trump’s administration should he win in November.

During an interview Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump declined to say whom he consults with on foreign policy issues. But he said he has spoken to his team and plans to announce its members soon. “I don’t think there’s any rush,” Trump said.

Trump said he respects Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Haass served in the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush.

Haass did not sign the letter. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The national security experts said Trump’s penchant for equating his success in the business world with foreign policy experience is false.

“Not all lethal conflicts can be resolved as a real estate deal might, and there is no recourse to bankruptcy court in international affairs,” they said, making a dig at Trump’s four bankruptcies.

Cohen and Bryan McGrath, a retired Navy officer and managing director of The FerryBridge Group defense consulting firm, organized the letter after exchanging their concerns about Trump over Twitter.

McGrath said he’s gratified by the large number of signatures. The letter, he said, is a “vehicle for people to say they’ve had enough.”