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Nearly 300 more former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter

Nearly 300 more former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter
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Nearly 300 more former national security officials have signed onto a letter endorsing Democratic candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  New DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad MORE for president.

The 291 new signatures announced Tuesday join 489 national security leaders who previously endorsed former Vice President Biden as having “the character, principles, wisdom and leadership necessary to address a world on fire.”

The new signatories include some officials who served under President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE, such as retired Army Maj. Gen. Craig Whelden, who served as executive director of Marine Corps Forces Pacific until 2019 after retiring from active duty in 2009, and Anita Friedt, a career State Department official who started during the Reagan administration, worked on arms control during the Obama administration and stayed under Trump until 2019.

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Also new on the letter is retired Lt. Col. Alfred Rascon, who was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2000 for heroic actions during the Vietnam War.

“Our nation is in crisis and, in times of crisis, those who have served this nation feel duty-bound to serve it once again,” Rascon said in a statement. “In just 10 months of COVID-19, we have lost more than three times as many Americans as died in two decades of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, with numbers still rising and no plan in place to combat the spread.

“This comes against a backdrop of a president who blames Gold Star families for his contracting the virus and, in the words of his own former secretary of Defense, does not even pretend to try to unify us as a country,” Rascon added. “He sees service members as props, not people. Joe Biden has the wisdom and decency needed to heal a fractured nation, so we enthusiastically support him.”

Trump has suggested he may have caught the coronavirus from Gold Star families. He hosted the families at the White House the day after an event for which several of those who attended later tested positive for the virus. None of the Gold Star families are known to have tested positive.

Former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden under pressure to remove Trump transgender military ban quickly Progressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper MORE, who has not endorsed a candidate, broke his silence about Trump over the summer to criticize him as “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try.”

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The new signatures on the endorsement letter also include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R), who served as the first Homeland Security secretary under George W. Bush and previously announced he was voting for Biden.

The new endorsements also add 81 retired general and flag officers, bringing the total number to 284 retired officers on the letter. The first batch of signatures on the letter made headlines for including former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva and former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft, both of whom served under Trump.

“The initial release of the letter was a clarion call to so many patriotic Americans who believed they must do their part to elect Joe Biden,” Michael Smith, executive director of National Security Leaders for Biden, the group that organized the letter, said in a statement. “It is no secret that our nation is in turmoil. We believe Joe Biden and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisKamala Harris calls nurse on Thanksgiving to express gratitude in fight against COVID-19 Trump campaign loses appeal over Pennsylvania race The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE will help truly unite the United States and navigate this nation through this troubled time.”

Editor's note: Sheila Casey, a senior military spouse adviser who signed the letter, is also the chief operating officer of The Hill. 

Updated at 9:41 a.m.