President-elect Joe Biden lit into President Trump on Thursday, accusing him of inciting the violent mob who stormed the U.S. Capitol the day before and comparing the treatment of the president’s lawless supporters with that of Black Lives Matter protesters.
“Yesterday, in my view, was one of the darkest days in the history of our nation, an unprecedented assault on our democracy,” Biden said in a speech delivered in Wilmington, Del. “An assault literally on the citadel of liberty, the United States Capitol itself. An assault on the rule of law. An assault on the most sacred of American undertakings — ratifying the will of the people in choosing the leadership of their government.”
Following a rally where Trump encouraged his supporters to head to the Capitol as lawmakers commenced with the certification of the Electoral College votes that confirmed his loss to Biden, a mob of thousands clashed with police and laid siege to the Capitol.
“What we witnessed yesterday was not dissent, it was not disorder, it was not protest. It was chaos. They weren’t protesters. Don’t dare call them protesters,” Biden said. “They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It’s that basic. It’s that simple, and I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming, but that isn’t true. We could see it coming. For the past four years we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law, clear in everything he has done.”
Biden then pivoted to a comparison of how Black Lives Matter protesters had been treated in the months following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
“A little over an hour and a half after the chaos started, I got a text from my granddaughter Finnegan Biden, who is a senior in her last semester at the University of Pennsylvania. She sent me a photo of military people in full military gear, scores of them lining steps of the Lincoln Memorial because of protests by Black Lives Matter. She said, ‘Pop, this isn’t fair,’” Biden said. “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol. We all know that’s true, and it is unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. The American people saw it in plain view, and I hope it sensitized them to what we have to do.”
In the unsparing speech, Biden accused Trump of unleashing “an all-out assault on the institutions of democracy.” He also lambasted the lame-duck president for his rhetoric when speaking about the judiciary (“my judges”) and the military (“my generals”).
Recounting Trump’s response to a Black Lives Matter protest in Washington on June 1, Biden said he saw more signs that the president had the leanings of a dictator.
“He deployed the United States military, tear-gassing peaceful protesters in pursuit of a photo opportunity in the service of his reelection, even holding the Bible upside down,” Biden said.
Wednesday’s events, Biden said, were even more evidence of who Trump really is.
“Inciting a mob to attack the Capitol, to threaten elected representatives of the people of this nation, and even the vice president, to stop the Congress from ratifying the will of the American people in a just-completed free and fair election,” Biden said, his disgust palpable, adding, “Trying to use a mob to silence the voices of nearly one hundred and sixty million Americans who summoned the courage during a pandemic that threatened their health and their lives to cast that sacred ballot.”
Speaking after Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also said Wednesday’s events at the Capitol illustrated the need to transform “a justice system that is experienced differently depending on whether you’re white or Black,” rich or poor.
“We witnessed two systems of justice when we saw one that let extremists storm the United States Capitol and another that released tear gas on peaceful protesters last summer,” said Harris, who will be the first Black vice president in U.S. history.
.@KamalaHarris: "We witnessed two systems of justice when we saw one that let extremists storm the United States Capitol, and another that released tear gas on peaceful protesters last summer...We know this is unacceptable. We know we should be better than this." pic.twitter.com/Uc1FC8aZKg
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 7, 2021
Biden’s speech came after his transition team announced a raft of nominations for Cabinet positions, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for Secretary of Labor and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo for Secretary of Commerce.
On Wednesday morning, following Democratic victories in two Senate runoff races in Georgia that will give the party a majority in the upper chamber of Congress, Biden’s team announced that Merrick Garland, a circuit court judge on the D.C. court of appeals and a onetime Supreme Court nominee, would be the incoming administration’s nominee for attorney general.
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