Ex-Navy officer calls Donald Trump 'existential threat,' warns of his re-election

Bill Glauber
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Retired Navy Rear Admiral Mike Smith, founder and president of the National Security Leaders for America, warning against the re-election of former President Donald Trump during an appearance at Dryhootch-Milwaukee, Thursday January 4.

Retired Navy Rear Admiral Michael Smith said he never imagined "a world where I’d spend my post-service life defending the future of democracy from a domestic threat in the form of a former president."

But as founder and president of National Security Leaders for America, Smith has hit the road to warn voters about re-electing former President Donald Trump.

Smith was in Milwaukee Thursday to talk about Trump ahead of the third anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol.

Democrats and their allies have focused this week on Trump's unsuccessful efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

On Friday, President Joe Biden travels to Valley Forge, Penn., to talk about the stakes in the November election, which is shaping up as a potential rematch from four years ago.

During an appearance at Dryhootch-Milwaukee, a gathering place for veterans and their families, Smith said Trump "is an existential threat to everything I swore to defend ... literally democracy is on the ballot."

"We're not supposed to get involved in politics," Smith added about being a retired officer. "They tell us stay out of politics. But the threat that Donald Trump and his ultra-MAGA accomplices presents, it just compels me ... to break with that tradition."

Former Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes tied remembrance of the Jan. 6 attack to the effort to secure voting rights and democracy. Barnes leads the voting rights group Power to the Polls.

He said the group was gathered to remember the "atrocities" of the January 6 attack and called Trump the "ringleader of this insurrection."

Barnes also raised the effort by 10 Republicans who posed as Trump electors in 2020 in Wisconsin and who recently acknowledged their actions were part of an attempt to overturn Biden's victory.

"Make no mistake: democracy is still on the ballot in 2024," Barnes said.

A spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin declined to comment on the Milwaukee event. Milwaukee will host the Republican National Convention in July.