Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday attacked former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell as a “classic RINO” who made “big mistakes on Iraq”.
In a statement released by his political action committee, the ex-president said it was “wonderful” to see Mr Powell “treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media,” and expressed hope that he would someday be lauded by the press in death.
“He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!”, the former president wrote.
Mr Powell’s death was announced by his family early Monday. The 84-year-old ex-soldier and diplomat passed away from complications due to Covid-19. Though he was fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, Mr Powell’s immune system was reportedly weakened from a years-long fight against blood cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
The New York City native first rose to prominence as National Security Adviser to then-President Ronald Reagan. Mr Reagan’s successor, George HW Bush, elevated him to the post of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before he retired from the US Army in 1993.
Mr Powell was the first Black American to hold the post of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and when he returned to public service as President George W Bush’s Secretary of State in 2001, he became the first Black man to hold that high office as well.
The former president’s reference to “big mistakes on Iraq” was a reference to Mr Powell’s controversial 2003 presentation to the UN Security Council, in which he argued that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
The former four-star general was no fan of Mr Trump, who he publicly referred to as a liar and whose rhetoric he called “dangerous to our democracy”. It was Mr Trump’s candidacy for president — and then his ascent to the presidency — which drove Mr Powell to leave the Republican Party after more than two decades.
In a final interview with Bob Woodward of The Washington Post earlier this year, Mr Powell said the 6 January Capitol insurrection that was perpetrated by Mr Trump’s followers was “awful”.
“He was going in there to overturn the government,” he said of the attack on America’s legislature.
In the wake of the 6 January attack, Mr Powell told NBC’s TODAY that he thought Mr Trump should have resigned right then.
“I wish he would do what Nixon did and just step down. Somebody ought to go up to him and it’s over. Plane’s waiting for you. You’re out,” he said at the time.
“What he is responsible for is one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen,” he added.
Reaction to Mr Trump’s attack on the man Gallup polling once showed as the most admired political figure in America was swift and harsh.
Writing on Twitter, University of Virginia Center for Politics founder Larry Sabato wrote that “no decent human being” would defend Mr Trump’s “malevolent, spiteful, narcissistic statement”.
“But those Republicans who keep silent today will speak volumes about how Trump has debased them and their once-great party,” he added. “Candidates with no courage never deserve our votes”.
Maggie Haberman, the New York Times correspondent who became widely known for her chronicling of Mr Trump’s White House, observed: “Given the chance to be gracious about someone’s death, or say nothing at all, Trump takes a decidedly different route”.
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