Sarah Matthews was working in the White House on Jan. 6, 2021 when a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory. She saw how Trump’s staff tried to get him to condemn the violence for hours without success.

“In my eyes, it was a complete dereliction of duty that he did not uphold his oath of office,” Matthews told USA TODAY. “I lost all faith in him that day,”

Matthews resigned from her job as deputy press secretary in the wake of Jan. 6. She views Trump as a threat to democracy who tried to steal the 2020 election and would do it again.

Matthews is part of a large group of former Trump administration officials who have been sharply disapproving of the former president as he seeks to return to the Oval Office. Many who are questioning his fitness for the presidency held high-level positions in the White House, including former Vice President Mike Pence and multiple cabinet members.

The Trump critics from within his own administration often point to a few key concerns: the threat they believe he poses to democracy, his handling of national security issues and his character.

The sheer number of Trump officials − a minimum of 16 − speaking out against their former boss, and the severity of their criticism, is highly unusual. It has no historical precedent in the last century, according to three presidential historians and a political scientist interviewed by USA TODAY.

“I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this, certainly not in the last 100 years,” said Lindsay Chervinsky, a senior fellow at the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University.

Mike Pence, Mark Esper, John Bolton national security officials

Some former Trump administration officials are actively opposing his reelection. Others have been more circumspect while still offering damning assessments of his performance and character.

Pence was an enthusiastic proponent − critics would say “lapdog” − of Trump’s until the former president pressured him to overturn Biden’s victory, culminating in Trump supporters chanting “hang Mike Pence” as they overran the Capitol on Jan. 6. Pence ran against Trump in the 2024 Republican primary and now says he won’t endorse him in the general election because of “profound differences,” including on Pence’s “constitutional duties.”

Trump’s former United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, also challenged him in the primary and has withheld her endorsement so far after dropping out.

“Someone who continually disrespects the sacrifices of military families has no business being commander in chief,” Haley said about Trump, after the ex-president mocked Haley’s husband, who is overseas on a military deployment.

Matthews, former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and former National Security Advisor John Bolton all told USA TODAY they won’t vote for Trump. Other key Trump administration figures who have offered strong criticism of the former president include Attorney General Bill Barr, chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Continue reading…