'I cannot in any way support President Trump this year,' Powell said [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
Former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell has endorsed Democratic former United States Vice President Joe Biden, becoming the first important Republican to publicly back President Donald Trump's rival ahead of November's election.
Powell, who led the US military during the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq under then-Republican President George HW Bush and later led the Department of State under President George W Bush, said Trump has "drifted away" from the US Constitution and posed a danger to the country and its democracy.More: Joe Biden puts the brakes on Trump jobs-report victory lap Another 1.87 million Americans filed for jobless claims last week How long will it take the US economy to recover from coronavirus?
"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."
In a tweet, Trump 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, Geroge Floyd, in Minnesota.
"We are in a turning point," Powell said, blasting Republican senators for not standing up to Trump.
"He lies about things. And he gets away with it because people will not hold him accountable."
Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and other retired officers have condemned Trump in recent days.
"Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people, does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us," Mattis said.
A few Republican members of Parliament 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.
Last week, Senator Lisa Murkowski told reporters she was struggling over whether she would back Trump in the November 3 election and praised Mattis's 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.
SOURCE: News agencies