Former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday called out Republican lawmakers for having “nothing to say” about President Donald Trump’s militarized response to widespread unrest following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
“While we’re watching (Trump), we need to watch our Congress,” Powell told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “I watched the senators heading into the chamber the other day after all this broke, with the reporters saying, ‘What do you have to say, What do you have to say?’”
“They had nothing to say. They would not react,” added Powell, a retired general who served under President George W. Bush.
“We’re not a country of just the President. We have a Congress. We have a Supreme Court. But, most of all, we have the people of the United States, the ones who vote, the ones who vote him in and the ones who vote him out.”
The comments from Powell represent the latest rebuke of the President by a former top Republican official. Last week, after several days of a strongman approach by Trump to the unrest, his former defense secretary, James Mattis, issued a blistering statement cautioning against Trump’s threat to use the military to quell the demonstrations.
Following Mattis’ statement, just one Republican senator – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – said they agreed with Mattis’ sentiments. Other Republican senators remained silent when asked by reporters about the former defense secretary’s statements, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was silent when asked twice about Mattis’ criticism.
Some senators defended Trump last week or contended they didn’t want to get involved in the dispute. The reaction reflects how many top Republicans on Capitol Hill have calculated that their fortunes in the 2020 elections rest in large part on Trump’s performance at the polls – and a messy, internecine war with a President with an itchy Twitter finger would amount to a fruitless and damaging endeavor.
CNN’s Manu Raju and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.