The former Trump aides who would rather not see him on the ballot

Donald Trump may have defeated his primary challengers and secured enough delegates to be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee this year, but a striking number of his former aides publicly said they would rather not see his name on the ballot in November.

Trump is running for president for a third time while facing 88 charges across four criminal cases. Two of those cases — a federal case in Washington and a state-level case in Georgia — center on Trump and his allies’ efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and keep Joe Biden from taking office. Trump, who has denied wrongdoing in each case, has tried to push the start of his criminal trials back until after November’s election.

Several of Trump’s former top advisers and allies have refused to endorse their former boss’s campaign, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former attorney general William P. Barr and former White House chief of staff John Kelly.

Other former members of Trump’s inner circle, including former defense secretary Mark T. Esper, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson and former White House counsel Ty Cobb, went further in their criticism of Trump by saying they’re not going to vote for him in November — and that they’re open to casting a ballot for President Biden instead.

Trump’s campaign said in a statement Monday evening that “the majority of the people who served in President Trump’s cabinet and in his administration … have overwhelmingly endorsed his candidacy to beat” Biden in 2024.

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1. Former Vice President Mike Pence

Just days after Trump won enough delegates to secure the GOP nomination, his former vice president — in a remarkable break with tradition — said he would not endorse him.

“Donald Trump is pursuing and articulating an agenda that is at odds with the conservative agenda that we governed on during our four years, and that is why I cannot in good conscience endorse Donald Trump in this campaign,” Pence told Fox News host Martha MacCallum last month.

After a dutiful four years serving as Trump’s No. 2, Pence split with Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol in which Pence was targeted by the mob of pro-Trump supporters who chanted “Hang Mike Pence.”

The former vice president ran against Trump in the 2024 Republican primary but struggled to find traction in the race.

In his interview with Fox News, Pence said he will keep his November vote private but emphasized that he will not vote for Biden.

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2. Former defense secretary Mark T. Esper

Former defense secretary Mark T. Esper told HBO host Bill Maher that “there’s no way” he’ll support Trump in November because he believes his former boss “is a threat to democracy.”

And while Esper did not say he would vote for Biden, he said he’s open to the possibility.

“Every day that Trump does something crazy, the door to voting for Biden opens a little bit more, and that’s where I’m at,” he said on Friday’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

Esper previously said on multiple occasions that he wouldn’t support Trump during the Republican primary process, telling CNN in July that Trump is not “fit for office because he puts himself first, and I think anybody running for office should put the country first.”

And, last May, he told MSNBC that the GOP has to find a different leader.

“Any elected official needs to meet some basic criteria: They need to be able to put country over self. They need to have a certain level of integrity and principle,” Esper said. “They need to be able to reach across the aisle and bring people together and unite the country.”

“Donald Trump doesn’t meet those marks for me,” he added.

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3. Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson

Cassidy Hutchinson, who served as an aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, became one of the most useful witnesses for the now-defunct House committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

Now a Trump critic, Hutchinson has said she will not vote for her former boss in 2024.

“I will say my door is completely shut to voting for Donald Trump,” she said in a November interview with MSNBC’s Jen Psaki, President Biden’s former White House press secretary.

Hutchinson, who went on to write a memoir about her time in the Trump White House, said she thinks “everybody should vote for Joe Biden if they want our democracy to survive.”

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4. Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham

Stephanie Grisham, who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign before becoming White House press secretary and later first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff, told The Washington Post in November that she fears Trump will again win the White House.

In a March CNN interview, Grisham offered to help Democrats with debate prep if Biden and Trump agree to face off.

“I spent six years nonstop with Donald Trump, and I’ll tell you what: If Biden does decide to debate Trump, I would sure like to prep President Biden,” she said.

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5. Former deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews

Sarah Matthews, a former deputy White House press secretary, supported Nikki Haley in the Republican primaries. She told The Post, however, that if, on Election Day her choice is between Trump and Biden, she’ll support Biden.

“We can survive bad policy from a second Biden administration,” Matthews said, “but I don’t think we can survive a second Trump term, in terms of our democracy.”

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6. Former White House counsel Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb, who was once a Trump loyalist and as White House counsel defended the former president during the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, has repeatedly said that the country cannot elect Trump again.

“He has never cared about America, its citizens, its future or anything but himself,” Cobb wrote in an email to The Post last year. “In fact, as history well shows from his divisive lies, as well as from his unrestrained contempt for the rule of law and his related crimes, his conduct and mere existence have hastened the demise of democracy and of the nation.”

Cobb added that America’s adversaries and allies “both recognize that even his potential reelection diminishes America on the world stage and ensures continued acceleration of the domestic decline we are currently enduring.”

“If that reelection actually happens, the consequences will extinguish what, if anything, remains of the American dream,” Cobb wrote.

In a separate interview with The Post published last month, Cobb said he would vote for Biden.

“If the time comes and a vote for Joe is required to stop Trump, then I’d grudgingly vote for Biden,” Cobb said.

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7. Former White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin

Alyssa Farah Griffin, who served as a White House communication director for Trump in 2020 and is now a host for ABC’s “The View” and a CNN commentator, told The Post last month that Trump “is a threat to democracy, and I will never support him.”

Farah Griffin hasn’t ruled out supporting Biden, but says she hasn’t made that decision yet.

“If Joe Biden remains where he’s been on aid to Ukraine and support for Israel, it’ll be much easier to get there,” she says of Republicans, like herself, who are considering supporting him.

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8. Former national security adviser John Bolton

John Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security adviser from 2018 to 2019 repeatedly said he will not support the former president in November.

Still, Bolton said he will not vote for Biden. He will write in a candidate in November.

“I live in Maryland. So, Biden is going to carry that state anyway,” Bolton told CNN in March. “What I think priority has to be for … Republicans who don’t like Trump, is get a Republican Senate. And in Maryland, we have a real opportunity with former governor Larry Hogan. I’m going to spend a lot of time on that.”

Bolton, who wrote a book that was sharply critical of Trump on national security after leaving the White House, said he’s frustrated by how Trump critics have been unsuccessful in hurting the former president’s popularity.

“So many things that I thought would be telling arguments about Trump — his character, you name it — have proven ineffective,” Bolton said. “The only thing that’s left is Trump’s not fit to be president. He doesn’t have a conservative philosophy. He follows his own personal interest, and that’s not what you need in a president.”

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9. Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney

Before Trump emerged victorious from the early GOP primaries, Mick Mulvaney, another of Trump’s chiefs of staff, told NBC News that he did not want his former boss to win the nomination.

“I am working hard to make sure that someone else is the nominee,” Mulvaney said. “I think he’s the Republican who is most likely to lose in a general election, of all our leading candidates. If anyone can lose to Joe Biden, it would be him.”

And, in a May interview with Australian network Sky News, Mulvaney said that, if Trump were to win the GOP primary, “he will probably lose” the general election.

Mulvaney hasn’t said who he will vote for in November. But he’s been critical of Biden and his campaign, saying last week that former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton outshined Biden at a fundraiser that Biden’s campaign said brought in more than $26 million. Mulvaney also penned an op-ed for the Hill about Biden’s age in February.

In a separate op-ed published by the Hill that same month, Mulvaney pushed for a third-party ticket, arguing that there is a “general displeasure amongst the electorate with the idea of” a Biden-Trump rematch.

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10. Former attorney general William P. Barr

While former attorney general William P. Barr — who split from Trump after the Jan. 6 attack — refused to endorse Trump in the GOP’s 2024 presidential primary, he recently suggested that reelecting Biden would be more dangerous than a second Trump term.

“Voting for Trump is playing Russian roulette with the country,” Barr said in February, according to Axios’s Mike Allen. “Voting for Biden is outright national suicide.”

Barr’s February statement cleared up any ambiguity Barr had put forth about his view on Biden’s reelection bid after the former attorney general came out against Trump’s campaign last summer.

“I have made clear that I strongly oppose Trump for the nomination and will not endorse Trump,” Barr told NBC News in a story that published in July. Asked then how he would vote if the general election was a Trump-Biden rematch, Barr said he’d “jump off that bridge when I get to it.”

Barr has been a sharp critic of the former president since he left his administration. He called Trump’s indictment in connection to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack fair and has argued that the Justice Department has a “legitimate case” against his former boss. Barr has repeatedly said that Trump knew he had lost the 2020 election, despite his claims that the race was stolen from him.

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11. Former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly

John F. Kelly, the former president’s longest-serving chief of staff, has been among the loudest detractors of a second Trump term.

In a November interview with The Post, Kelly said he was watching his former boss dominate the Republican primary field with increasing despair.

“What’s going on in the country that a single person thinks this guy would still be a good president when he’s said the things he’s said and done the things he’s done?” Kelly said. “It’s beyond my comprehension he has the support he has.”

A retired four-star general, Kelly said he doesn’t know what to do to change people’s minds about their support for Trump. He cited a statement he issued to CNN in October 2023 confirming comments Trump made privately years ago about veterans and the war-wounded.

“I came out and told people the awful things he said about wounded soldiers, and it didn’t have half a day’s bounce,” he told The Post last year. “You had his attorney general Bill Barr come out, and not a half a day’s bounce. If anything, his numbers go up. It might even move the needle in the wrong direction. I think we’re in a dangerous zone in our country.”

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Josh Dawsey and Kara Voght contributed to this report.

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