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88 Former Military Leaders Endorse Donald Trump's Presidential Bid


We're hearing this morning from military supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. A retired Air Force general announced his backing for Clinton on the program today, and now we have retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Philip Anselmo. He is one of 88 retired generals and admirals who signed an open letter endorsing Donald Trump. And he's on the line. Admiral, welcome to the program.

PHILIP ANSELMO: Well, thank you.

INSKEEP: You were part of an institution - the U.S. military - that places a premium on experience. So why is it a good idea to select a commander-in-chief with no national security experience?

ANSELMO: Well, as a matter of fact, we've always vowed that we would support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And in my lifetime, I have honored that code. And because of that, I lean towards supporting Donald Trump, who has been very, very frank and direct about his support of America. On the other hand, the challenging party has not maintained a very good role in bearing true faith and allegiance to the U.S.

INSKEEP: Forgive me, you're saying that Hillary Clinton is not properly faithful to the United States, does not maintain the true faith and allegiance to the United States, as you just put it?

ANSELMO: Yes, I would say that, based on the performance that has unfolded before us here over the last 10 months with the handling of classified material and then the repeated demonstrated lies about what had happened with the material, that erodes my confidence in her ability to be able to do what's necessary as commander-in-chief.

INSKEEP: Forgive me, we've been talking about the emails on this program. We just questioned a Clinton supporter about them this morning. But you seem to be saying something different - that Hillary Clinton is not faithful to the United States. Why would you say that?

ANSELMO: Well, I believe that her performance to this point has conflicted her in her role of being responsible to the oath she took for office. And as a result, if you're not faithful to that oath, then you're not being faithful to the United States.

INSKEEP: OK, let me come back to the original question. Why is Donald Trump qualified to be commander-in-chief, specifically?

ANSELMO: Donald Trump has surrounded himself with a very good group of national advisers, both on defense and on items such as immigration, community relations, business, et cetera. And I think that's a solid team that he's put together that'll be able to move the country forward.

INSKEEP: Are you saying that he himself is not there as commander-in-chief, but that he'll bring in people who can help him with that?

ANSELMO: Well, like with any big responsibility, I think Mr. Trump brings all the requisite qualifications, having been a successful businessman, a community leader. And he's demonstrated that capability over a number of years. And that's one of the prerequisites of being commander-in-chief.

INSKEEP: You do wonder, though, Admiral, if he would follow smart advisers because he's specifically said he doesn't take very much advice. And a Clinton ad even runs a Trump quote - an actual Trump quote - I know more about ISIS than the generals, believe me. Do you believe him?

ANSELMO: Well, I think, like anything else, there's a lot of things that are said off-handedly by both campaigns, and I don't put a lot of stock in that. For some of the things he has said, he's openly apologized if it offended anyone. But I think that's just a matter of course. He's a very frank and straightforward person, and that's - that's a very commanding presence.

INSKEEP: I don't know that he has apologized that often, but let's leave that there for the - for the moment. And just do you think he knows what he's doing with ISIS - because he thinks he does. He says he does.

ANSELMO: I think that he knows as much as he needs to know at this juncture in dealing with a threat to us, both internationally and domestically. I'm certain there's more to learn, like with everything. But at this juncture, I feel that he's perfectly capable of handling a crisis.

INSKEEP: Have you had a chance to talk with him?

ANSELMO: No, I have not.

INSKEEP: OK. He has said he's going to go after ISIS big league. What does that mean?

ANSELMO: Well, there are a number of things that can be placed in that category. One would be his 10-point policy on immigration. That's a critical part of this. You notice I mentioned earlier about defending the United States against enemies foreign and domestic. I didn't expect in my lifetime to be worried about domestic, but we're at the juncture in this country where we are worried about domestic. And I think that he understands fully what that immigration policy will do in disrupting ISIS and their ability to penetrate this nation.

INSKEEP: You think that the - what was a proposed ban of Muslims and then is a ban of people from terrorist states, possibly beyond Muslims, you think that that is what - that is a valuable step, in your view?

ANSELMO: Yes, I would say that the rigorous vetting of personnel that are coming from those regions of the world is a very necessary step for this country.

INSKEEP: Although that's not going after ISIS big league. That's trying to put up walls around the United States. Do you have any idea how a President Trump would actually go after ISIS where it is in Iraq and Syria?

ANSELMO: Well, I would leave that to his national security team. One of the things you don't do - and I know Mr. Trump has said this a few times - one of the things that you don't do when dealing with an enemy like this - a group of terrorists - you don't commit to your plan and your details. That's a lot different than what the past administration or the current administration has done.

INSKEEP: Admiral, I just want to ask one other question in the time we have here. Donald Trump has said, in spite of studies to the contrary, that, quote, "torture works," that waterboarding is its minor - minor form, and we should go much stronger than waterboarding. Those are his words. Now, the U.S. military opposes torture as a matter of policy. The FBI opposes it. I'd like to know, as a retired officer, if you believe the United States needs to be in the torture business.

ANSELMO: No, I don't think anyone believes that. But I do believe that things like potentially waterboarding or other efforts that are along those lines are necessary when you're in combat to save critical lives.

INSKEEP: Meaning you don't define waterboarding as torture yourself. But setting that aside, what if U.S. enemies use a President-Trump policy on torture - or whatever you want to call it - to torture Americans, to justify torturing Americans? Just a few seconds here.

ANSELMO: Well, you can't do that under the Geneva Convention. And if they do that, they're in violation...

INSKEEP: Wouldn't we be?

ANSELMO: ...As we would be.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, Admiral, we'll leave it right there. Thank you very much, really appreciate you taking the time this morning.

ANSELMO: Well, thank you.

INSKEEP: That is retired Rear Admiral Philip Anselmo of the United States Navy. He is one of 88 retired generals and admirals who signed an open letter endorsing Donald Trump for president. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.