Trump fails the nation on 'moral, legal and ethical' grounds, retired Special Ops chief says

Dylan Stableford
Senior Writer

William McRaven, a retired four-star Navy admiral who led U.S. Special Operations Command under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, believes President Trump has failed the nation on “moral, legal and ethical” standards, and that aides should have stopped him from asking the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I do think he should be in trouble,” McRaven told former Obama adviser David Axelrod on a recent episode of his “Axe Files” podcast.

Retired Adm. William McRaven and President Trump (Photos: Mike Segar/Reuters, Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

“When we think of dignity — the dignity of the office — it is about doing things that are moral, legal and ethical,” McRaven said. “Ethical, follow the rules. Legal, follow the law. Moral, follow what you know to be right. And my concern with President Trump is that I don’t see him following any of those on a lot of his major decisions.”

McRaven said that the Bush and Obama White Houses had a “rigorous” process to handle calls with foreign leaders. Had Trump followed this precedent, he said, “it would not have gotten the president in this awkward position of, ‘Let me ask for reciprocation for something on Joe Biden.’ That wouldn’t have happened.”

“You would have hoped through the process somebody would have told him time and time again, ‘Mr. President, you can’t do this,’” McRaven continued. “It is against ethics. It is against the law. And it is against, you know, our moral position to be able to ask a fellow president, head of state, to intervene on something that is clearly part of our American electoral process.”

Trump was reportedly warned by aides not to bring up Biden during the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but did so anyway.

Trump’s appeal to Zelensky, cited in a whistleblower’s complaint against the president, led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to announce the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry last week.

“I do think he should be in trouble,” McRaven said. “I mean I think this is, again, this is a violation of kind of the fundamentals of the office. You know, never use a foreign country to affect the political outcome of our nation.”

McRaven, who retired from the military in 2014, has been a vocal critic of Trump’s policies. In 2018, he resigned in protest from the Pentagon’s technology advisory board after Trump revoked the security clearance of another critic, former CIA Director John Brennan.

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