While Barack Obama has been silent during most of Donald Trump's administration, holding to the tradition of a former president not speaking out against a sitting president, that changed in a leaked private call on Friday. According to reports by Yahoo News and the New York Times, Obama can be heard in leaked audio calling the response by the Trump administration to the COVID-19 pandemic a "chaotic disaster" and saying the recent developments with Michael Flynn threaten "the rule of law."
The comments have grabbed the attention of many online given the circumstances, with some praising the former president for saying what many have been feeling across the country. Obama's comments were also framed as a firm push for Joe Biden heading into the fall presidential campaign.
Former US President Barack Obama has criticised Donald Trump's response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic in a leaked phone call with people he used to work with in the White House. #9Today pic.twitter.com/dW4VGLqtDg— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) May 9, 2020
"This election that's coming up on every level is so important because what we're going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party. What we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life. And by the way, we're seeing that internationally as well," Obama can be heard saying in the audio shared by Yahoo News. "It's part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty. It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset — of 'what's in it for me' and 'to heck with everybody else' — when that mindset is operationalized in our government."
He added that this was why he was going to be campaigning harder than he did in 2016 for Joe Biden. The former president endorsed the Biden in April with a video message following Bernie Sanders' suspension of his campaign. But these comments are the first firm commitment the former POTUS has made for his former VP.
Obama also criticized the news around former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn after the Department of Justice dropped the charges against him.
"The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed — about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn," Obama said in the audio leaked from his call with the Obama Alumni Association. "And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That's the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we've seen in other places."
Flynn's connection to Obama stems from his time as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency during Obama's presidency before he was fired due to complaints he was a "chaotic, insubordinate manager." The former president even warned Trump against hiring Flynn, which was ignored and led to the current situation.
Thankfully it wasn't all complaints with the private call. Obama made it clear that the lack of sports happening at the moment is making him crazy but he's also happy to have his daughters at home "stuck having dinner" with him and wife Michelle.