Washington, Jun 7 (efe-epa).- Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, an influential figure in US politics for decades, announced Sunday that he will vote for Democrat Joe Biden in the November presidential election, a move that automatically brought harsh criticism from President Donald Trump, who is running for re-election against the former vice president.
“I’m very close to Joe Biden on a social matter and on a political matter. I worked with him for 35, 40 years, and he is now the candidate and I will be voting for him,” said Powell, a longtime Republican who served as secretary of state from 2001-2005 under former President George W. Bush and also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In an interview with CNN, the country’s former top diplomat criticized Trump and said that Trump has not been an “effective leader,” noting that he “lies all the time” in office starting with his brazen and completely unfounded claim that he had the largest Inauguration Day in history.
“The situation … has gotten worse,” Powell told CNN, adding that “Every American citizen has to sit down and think (it) through … Use your common sense. Say, ‘Is this good for my country?'” and going on to say that “We have a Constitution. And we have to follow that Constitution. And the president has drifted away from it.”
Biden wasted no time in welcoming Powell’s endorsement, tweeting on Sunday afternoon that “This isn’t about politics. This is about the future of our country. Grateful for your support, Secretary Powell.”
Powell’s remarks could influence independent voters, who make up 38 pecent of the electorate, according to the Pew Research Center.
Immediately, Trump took to Twitter to lambaste Powell, recalling the role the ex-secretary of state played in the narrative pushed by the George W. Bush administration that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that the US had to go to war with the Middle Eastern nation to ensure they were not used against the US or its allies.
“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. “Didn’t Powell say that Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction?’ They didn’t, but off we went to WAR.”
The president also said that Powell, a four-star general, is “overrated.”
In 2016, Powell had backed the presidential candidacy of Democrat Hillary Clinton, who also served as secretary of state albeit under Barack Obama, rather than Trump, and in 2008 and 2012 he had voted for Obama, who served as president from 2009-2017.
In recent days, Trump has been severely criticized for his management of the demonstration against police violence against African Americans.
Trump has been criticized by, among others, Bush and Obama, as well as by his own former defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, another voice who – like Powell – carries great weight in Washington.
Agreeing with Mattis, Powell said that Trump is the first president in his lifetime who does not attempt to unite the country, but rather continually tries to divide Americans, and adding that the recent protests have demonstrated to him that the country is at “a turning point.”
“The Republican Party, the president thought they were immune, they can say anything they wanted,” Powell said. “And even more troubling, the Congress would just sit there and not in any way resist what the president is doing.”
“The one word I have to use with respect to what he’s been doing for the last several years is the word I would never have used before, never would have used with any of the four presidents I worked for, he lies,” Powell said, adding “He lies about things. And he gets away with it because people will not hold him accountable.”