By MAGGIE HABERMANSEPT. 6, 2016
Donald J. Trump’s campaign will release an open letter on Tuesday from about 90 retired generals and military officials endorsing his presidential campaign, urging a “long overdue course correction in our national security posture.”
The letter in support of Mr. Trump, signed by 88 retired military figures, will come as the campaign prepares for a week focused on national security, with a forum hosted by NBC and MSNBC on Wednesday evening alongside Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.
“The 2016 election affords the American people an urgently needed opportunity to make a long overdue course correction in our national security posture and policy,” the letter states.
“As retired senior leaders of America’s military, we believe that such a change can only be made by someone who has not been deeply involved with, and substantially responsible for, the hollowing out of our military and the burgeoning threats facing our country around the world,” the generals and admirals write. “For this reason, we support Donald Trump’s candidacy to be our next commander in chief.”
Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, is seeking to blunt an edge that Mrs. Clinton, a former secretary of state, has established either from retired military figures like Gen. John R. Allen, or from the tacit boost she could receive from Republican national security and foreign policy experts who have denounced Mr. Trump.
And Mr. Trump’s reorganized campaign is looking to craft an image of him as a palatable commander in chief, particularly ahead of his first debate with Mrs. Clinton on Sept. 26.
The group of signatories was put together by Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow of the Army, a Holocaust survivor, and Rear Adm. Charles Williams of the Navy.
“I think it more than trumps” the list of people backing Mrs. Clinton, said Keith Kellogg, a retired Army lieutenant general who is advising Mr. Trump on national security.
Document: Open Letter From Retired Military Figures Supporting Trump
Describing the group as “national security professionals for Trump,” Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army officer who had been under consideration to be Mr. Trump’s running mate, said it came together organically.
“We had to stop accepting names because we were running out of time,” he said. “These were people that have been passing us ideas from national security to education ideas.”
Some of the people listed on the letter had supported Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in the 2012 campaign, in the run-up to Election Day. Some were among those who had urged Congress to reject the nuclear deal with Iran.
Still others have been known for making controversial statements, like Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin of the Army, who was criticized by President George W. Bush for describing the battle against Islamist terrorists as a religious proxy fight between a “Christian nation” and the “idol” of Islam. For Mr. Trump, who has proposed a ban on Muslim immigrants to halt the spread of the Islamic State, such comments are in line with his own over the last year.
Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney of the Air Force, who is also listed on the letter and is a Fox News military analyst, has previously submitted court documents challenging President Obama’s eligibility to serve as president, accusing him of not having been born in the United States, an accusation Mr. Trump himself once raised.
General Kellogg declined to evaluate past remarks from the military figures, saying they had served their country and had earned their right to speak.
In the letter, the group expresses concern that the government will persist “in the practices that have brought us to this present pass” after a series of budget cuts.
“For this reason, we support Donald Trump and his commitment to rebuild our military, to secure our borders, to defeat our Islamic supremacist adversaries and restore law and order domestically,” they write. “We urge our fellow Americans to do the same.”
Mr. Trump, who often mentions veterans in his campaign speeches, said in a statement, “I thank each of them for their service and their confidence in me to serve as commander in chief. Keeping our nation safe and leading our armed forces is the most important responsibility of the presidency.”