FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (R) takes part in an onstage interview with Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson (L) at the Washington Ideas Forum in Washington, September 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell on Sunday endorsed Democratic former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, becoming the first major Republican to publicly back Donald Trump’s rival ahead of November’s election.
Powell, who led the U.S. military during the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq under Republican former President George H.W. Bush and later led the Department of State under President George W. Bush, said Trump has “drifted away” from the U.S. Constitution and posed a danger the country and its democracy.
“I cannot in any way support President Trump this year,” Powell, who did not vote for the Republican president in 2016, told CNN. Asked if he would vote for Biden, he added: “I will be voting for him.”
Trump, who has been critical of the Iraq war, in a tweet called Powell “a real stiff.”
Powell is the latest former top military officer to rebuke Trump in the wake of sweeping mass protests aimed at fighting racial injustice spurred by the May 25 death of an unarmed black man in Minnesota.
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other retired officers have condemned Trump in recent days in a rare rebuke with few precedents in U.S. history.
A few Republican lawmakers have also spoken out against Trump’s handling of the outcry and have raised questions about their support for his re-election bid, though most have remained quiet or continued to voice support for the president.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski last week told reporters she was struggling over whether she would back Trump in the Nov. 3 election and praised Mattis’ strong words as did fellow Republican Mitt Romney.
Powell, who is black, was one of the few prominent Republicans to denounce Trump during the former reality television star’s 2016 presidential run and publicly endorse Trump’s then-rival Hillary Clinton.
Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Shumaker