U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Thursday denounced the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol as “domestic terrorists” and blamed President Donald Trump for the violence that has shaken the nation’s capital and beyond.
The actions of Trump supporters who breached the security of Congress on Wednesday, said Biden, was “not dissent, was not disorder, was not protest. It was chaos.”
In solemn tones, Biden said the steps Trump has taken to subvert the nation’s democratic institutions throughout his presidency led directly to the mayhem in Washington.
Those who massed on Capitol Hill intending to disrupt a joint session of Congress that was certifying Biden’s election victory over Trump “weren’t protesters. Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob — insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It’s that basic,” Biden said.
“In the past 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,” Biden said. “He unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset. And yesterday was the culmination of that unrelenting attack.”
WATCH | Biden lays the blame for Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol on Donald Trump:
The mob of hundreds of Trump backers broke into the Capitol and roamed the halls looking for lawmakers, who were forced to halt their deliberations and evacuate to safety. The violent protesters were egged on by Trump himself, who has falsely contended that he lost the election due to voter fraud.
Trump’s claims have been repeatedly dismissed in the courts, including the Supreme Court, and by state election officials from both parties, and even some in his own administration.
Merrick Garland for attorney general
Biden made his remarks as he introduced Merrick Garland as his pick for attorney general on Thursday along with three others he has selected for senior Justice Department positions to “restore the independence” of the Justice Department and faith in the rule of law.
Garland is the former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit. If confirmed by the Senate, which is likely, he would take over as the nation’s top law enforcement official at a critical moment for the country and the agency.
He would inherit immediate challenges related to civil rights, an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son Hunter and calls from many Democrats to pursue criminal inquiries into Trump after he leaves office.
Beyond the specific issues, he will be tasked with repairing the American people’s broad distrust in the U.S. Justice Department, among other institutions of democracy undermined by Trump’s turbulent presidency.
Biden vowed that Garland’s loyalty would rest not with the president, but with the law and Constitution.
“You don’t work for me,” Biden charged as he introduced Garland.
Black Lives Matter treated very differently, says Biden
Biden used the event to also address what he said was blatant inequality in dealing with the mob on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
“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 who stormed the Capitol.”
WATCH | Biden calls out the inequality over how the rioters were treated Wednesday:
Garland would inherit a Justice Department that has endured a tumultuous four years and abundant criticism from Democrats over what they see as the overpoliticization of law enforcement. The department is expected to dramatically change course under new leadership, including through a different approach to civil rights issues and national policing policies, especially after months of mass protests over the deaths of Black Americans at the hand of law enforcement.
Black and Latino advocates had wanted a Black attorney general or someone with a background in civil rights causes and criminal justice reform. Groups including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund had championed Garland’s Supreme Court nomination, but the extent of support from minority groups for the attorney general job was not immediately clear.
Other justice posts announced
Biden introduced three others for senior Justice Department leadership posts, including Obama administration homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, the No. 3 official. He also named an assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, now the president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group.
Though Garland is a white man, the selection of Gupta and Clarke, two women with significant experience in civil rights, appeared designed to blunt any concerns and served as a signal that progressive causes would be prioritized in the new administration.