President-elect Joe Biden condemned Wednesday’s riots at the U.S. Capitol in scathing terms, blaming President Donald Trump for “inciting” his supporters with his false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen.
Speaking on Thursday in an appearance announcing his appointments to lead the Department of Justice, Biden condemned the pro-Trump rioters as “insurrectionists” and “domestic terrorists.”
“They weren’t protesters,” he declared. “Don’t dare call them protesters.”
Biden also slammed Trump, blaming him for “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 ratifying the will of the American people and a just-completed, free and fair election.”
Trump was “trying to use a mob to silence the voices of nearly 160 million Americans who summoned the courage in the face of a pandemic that threatened their health and their lives and cast that sacred ballot,” Biden continued.
He commended the multiple judges for rejecting Trump’s lawsuits challenging the election results, arguing that they showed the enduring importance of the country’s democratic institutions.
“Our president is not above the law,” he said. “Justice serves the people. It doesn’t protect the powerful.”
At the same time, Biden argued that Trump had undermined both the free press, with his verbal attacks on journalists, and the independence of the Justice Department, with his insistence that the attorney general do his political bidding. The president-elect singled out the incident last June when Trump ordered the tear-gassing of peaceful protesters in front of the White House for the sake of a photo opportunity outside a church.
Biden promised to restore the American people’s faith in the integrity of the executive branch in general and the Justice Department in particular.
Addressing himself to Judge Merrick Garland, his pick for attorney general, and the people he has selected to serve as Garland’s deputies, Biden declared, “You are not the president or the vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It is to the law.”
Part of Biden’s vision for upholding justice is rectifying racist biases in the U.S. law enforcement system. To that end, he condemned what he sees as a double standard in the way that law enforcement responded to the predominantly white mob of pro-Trump rioters on Wednesday compared with the way law enforcement has treated Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
“What we saw yesterday in plain view was another violation of the fundamental tenets of this nation,” he said. “Not only did we see the failure to protect one of the three branches of our government; we also saw a clear failure to carry out equal justice.”
Biden recounted how his granddaughter Finnegan sent him photos of phalanxes of heavily armored military members guarding the Lincoln Memorial during a previous Black Lives Matter demonstration.
“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,” he said. “We all know that’s true. And it is unacceptable ― totally unacceptable. The American people saw it in plain view and I hope it sensitizes them to what we have to do.”