In a major blow to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, a group of 50 Republican national security experts, including former top spy masters and diplomats, have said the White House nominee will be a dangerous President and will put the country's safety at risk.
However, Trump sought to dismiss their charges by saying that these "Washington elites" should look for answers on why the world has become a mess.
In a statement issued on 9 August, the group of national security experts said, "None of us will vote for Donald Trump. From a foreign policy perspective, Trump is not qualified to be the President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country's national security and well-being."
"Most fundamentally, Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President. He weakens the US' moral authority as the leader of the free world," said the letter which has been signed by individuals who served in senior national security and foreign policy positions in Republican administrations, from Richard Nixon to George W Bush.
The statement added that the 70-year-old business tycoon appears to lack basic knowledge about and belief in the US Constitution, US laws and US institutions, including religious tolerance, freedom of the press and an independent judiciary.
Claiming that Trump lacks the temperament to be President, the statement alleged he has demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding of America's vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values on which the US foreign policy must be based.
Trump, the statement said, is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views.
"He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behaviour. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the US nuclear arsenal," they said.
The group joins members of the security establishment who have already come out against Trump, including former CIA director Michael Morell, who last Friday accused Trump of being an "unwitting agent" of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Prominent among those who signed the letter were former CIA director Michael Hayden, former US trade representative Carla A Hills, former US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill and former associate director for Near East affairs, National Security Council, White House Richard Fontaine.
Striking back, Trump, in a statement issued on 8 August, said, "We thank them for coming forward so everyone in the country knows who deserves the blame for making the world such a dangerous place. They are nothing more than the failed Washington elite looking to hold onto their power and it's time they are held accountable for their action."
Trump said the signatories, along with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, are the owners of the disastrous decisions to invade Iraq, allow Americans to die in Benghazi, and they are the ones who allowed the rise of ISIS.
"Yet despite these failures, they think they are entitled to use their favour trading to land taxpayer-funded government contracts and speaking fees. It's time we put our foot down and declare that their gravy train is over: no longer will crooked Hillary Clinton and the other disasters in Washington get rich at our expense," he said.
Trump asserted that he has offered a better vision for the country and foreign policy - one that is not run by a ruling family dynasty.
"It's an America first vision that stands up to foreign dictators instead of taking money from them, seeks peace over war, rebuilds our military, and makes other countries pay their fair share for their protection. Together, we will break up the rigged system in Washington, make America safe again, and we will make America great again," he said.--PTI