Prominent Republicans throw weight behind Biden as Trump's convention opens

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than two dozen former Republican U.S. lawmakers, including former Senator Jeff Flake, endorsed Democrat Joe Biden for president as the Republican National Convention opened on Monday, a rebuke to President Donald Trump by members of his own party.

FILE PHOTO: Former Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) walks through the Ohio Clock Corridor off the U.S. Senate floor during the opening arguments of President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

The 27 former members of Congress joined a “Republicans for Biden” initiative organized by the Biden campaign to encourage Republican support for the Democrat, the Biden campaign said. They cited Trump’s “corruption, destruction of democracy, blatant disregard for moral decency, and urgent need to get the country back on course” as reasons for the move, according to a Biden campaign statement.

“I was a Republican long before the president ever called himself one, and I’ll be a Republican long after identifying as such is no longer useful to him,” Flake said in a 16-minute video explaining his decision to endorse Biden and vote for a Democratic presidential nominee for the first time.

“Given what we have experienced over the past four years, it’s not enough just to register our disapproval of the president. We need to elect someone else in his place, someone who will stop the chaos and reverse the damage.”

The former lawmakers are only the latest Republican group to endorse Biden and oppose Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

Separately, the Lincoln Project, one of the most prominent Republican-backed groups opposing Trump, said on Monday that former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele had joined it as a senior adviser.

“The chair behind the Resolute Desk has always been bigger than any political party,” Steele said in a statement. “Sadly, we have witnessed its occupant devolve into preying upon fears and resentments with narcissism that nurtures only chaos and confusion. Leadership is needed now more than ever.”

On Sunday, one of the group’s co-founders, George Conway, and his wife, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, both stepped down from their political roles, citing a need to spend time with family.

Last week, 73 former Republican national security officials, including former chiefs of the FBI and CIA, endorsed Biden while calling Trump unfit to serve.

Opposition groups object to Trump’s alienation of U.S. allies abroad and his leadership at home, including his response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 176,000 Americans.

The Trump campaign has described the groups as disaffected former officials “trying to take down the duly elected President of the United States.”

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler