President-elect Joe Biden condemned as “domestic terrorists” the violent mob of Donald Trump supporters that stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday, calling the assault on the seat of American government “one of the darkest days in the history of our nation”.
“They weren’t protesters – don’t dare call them protesters,” Biden said in remarks from Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday. “They were a riotous mob. Insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists. It’s that basic. It’s that simple.”
Biden spoke hours after Congress formally certified his victory in the November presidential election, a constitutionally mandated ritual that was disrupted by rioters seeking to keep Trump in power.
In his remarks, Biden blamed Trump for inciting the violence that had transpired in his name.
“For the past four years we’ve had a president who has made his contempt for our democracy, our constitution, and the rule of law clear in everything he has done,” Biden said. “He has unleashed an all-out assault on the institutions of our democracy.”
For hours, loyalists of the president roamed the halls of Congress as law enforcement struggled to respond. Some waved Trump flags, others carried Confederate flags. They broke windows and trampled through the Senate chamber.
As the events unfolded on Wednesday, Biden said he received a text from his granddaughter, Finnegan, with a photo of the police presence outside the Lincoln Memorial last summer when Black Lives Matter activists demonstrated against the police killing of George Floyd.
Pointing to the strikingly different response from law enforcement to Wednesday’s largely white mob, she wrote: “Pop, this isn’t fair.” Biden agreed.
“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday, they would have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” Biden said, his voice swelling with indignation. “We all know that’s true. And it’s unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”
In labeling the rioters “domestic terrorists”, Biden was reflecting his commitment to combating far-right extremism, a growing threat the current administration has largely ignored.
His remarks came as he introduced his nominee for attorney general, Judge Merrick Garland, as well as three other officials to lead the justice department. Biden said the attorney general would serve as the “people’s lawyer” and that his nominees would help restore judicial independence to the department.
“Your loyalty is not to me,” he told his intended nominees. “It’s to the law, the constitution, the people of this nation, to guarantee justice.”
Garland, who currently serves as a judge on the US court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, said Wednesday’s assault on Congress was a reminder that “the rule of law is not just some lawyer’s turn of phrase. It is the very foundation of our democracy.”
Speaking after Biden, Garland recalled the history of the justice department, which was created in 1870 during the period of Reconstruction to protect the civil rights of newly emancipated Black citizens against the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups.
“These principles ensuring the rule of law and making the promise of equal justice under law real are the great principles under which the Department of Justice was founded and for which it must always stand,” Garland said, speaking after Biden.
“They echo today in the priorities that lie before us, from ensuring racial equity in our justice system to meeting the evolving threat of violent extremism. If confirmed, those are the principles to which I will be devoted as attorney general.”
News – Biden decries Trump mob: ‘Don’t call them protesters. They were domestic terrorists’