“They were a riotous mob — insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists. It’s that basic. It’s that simple,” Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware, as he began a speech in which he planned to introduce federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland as his nominee for attorney general.
“And I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming, but that isn’t true. We could see it coming,” Biden said. “The last four years we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law, clear in everything he has done. He unleashed an all-out assault on the institutions of our democracy from the outset, and yesterday was but a culmination … of that attack.”
“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 to cast that sacred ballot,” Biden said of Trump’s actions, referring to the number of Americans who voted in the 2020 presidential election.
He said he’d received a text from his granddaughter pointing out that Black Lives Matter protesters would have been treated much more aggressively by police than pro-Trump rioters were Wednesday.
“We all know that’s true, and it’s unacceptable. Totally unacceptable,” he said. “The American people saw it in plain view.”
On Thursday, Biden strained to make clear that — unlike Trump, who has leaned on his attorneys general to end investigations into his actions and launch probes into his political rivals — Biden is seeking a Justice Department that will act independently of the President.
“You won’t work for me. You are not the president or the vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It’s to the law. The Constitution,” Biden said.
Garland, too, referred to Wednesday’s attempted coup by Trump supporters in explaining his decision to depart a lifetime appointment as a federal judge.
“To serve as attorney general at this critical time … is a calling I am honored and eager to answer,” Garland said. “As everyone who watched yesterday’s events in Washington now understands — if they did not understand before — the rule of law is not just some lawyer’s turn of phrase. It is the very foundation of our democracy.”
“The essence of the rule of law its that like cases are treated alike; that there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans; one rule for friends and another for foes … or different rules depending upon one’s race or ethnicity. And the essence of its great corollary, equal justice under law, is that all citizens are protected in their exercise of their civil rights,” he said.
Garland pointed to Biden’s comments that the attorney general would have the “independent capacity” to determine who is and is not prosecuted.
“I would not have agreed to be considered for attorney general under any other conditions,” Garland said.
To serve under Garland at the Justice Department, Biden has chosen Lisa Monaco, who served as assistant attorney general for national security in the Obama administration, as his nominee for deputy attorney general.
The President-elect has also selected Vanita Gupta, a former acting assistant attorney general in the Obama administration, as his nominee for associate attorney general, and Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as his nominee for assistant attorney general for the civil rights division.
“Our first-rate nominees to lead the Justice Department are eminently qualified, embody character and judgment that is beyond reproach, and have devoted their careers to serving the American people with honor and integrity,” Biden said in a statement.
The President-elect continued, “They will restore the independence of the Department so it serves the interests of the people not a presidency, rebuild public trust in the rule of law, and work tirelessly to ensure a more fair and equitable justice system.”
Garland, whose nomination to the Supreme Court in 2016 by President Barack Obama was ignored by Senate Republicans, was seen as a top contender for the position, but concerns about the vacancy his selection would create on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia had raised alarm bells among Biden and many advisers who believed Senate Republicans would block any nomination to that seat. Democrats winning the Senate allayed those concerns.
Biden was planning to deliver a speech on the economy Wednesday afternoon, but scrapped his speech and instead addressed the chaos and violence in Washington. He said the rioting by Trump supporters at the US Capitol amounted to an “unprecedented assault” on US democracy.
“This is not dissent, it’s disorder. It’s chaos,” Biden said. “It borders on sedition, and it must end now.”