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Biden slams Capitol rioters as 'domestic terrorists': 'Don't dare call them protesters'

Biden also said police would've responded "very, very differently" if the group was with Black Lives Matter.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on Jan. 6, 2021.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on Jan. 6, 2021.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
/ Source: NBC News

President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday slammed the supporters of President Donald Trump who violently stormed the U.S. Capitol as “domestic terrorists” and emotionally lamented how the members of the mob may have been met with a far harsher law enforcement response if they had been Black.

Calling Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol "one of the darkest days in the history of our nation" and an “unprecedented assault on our democracy,” Biden said the violent actions of the Trump-flag-toting mob was “not descent, not disorder — it was chaos.”

“They weren’t protesters, don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It's that basic, it's that simple,” Biden said during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, to introduce his nominees to lead the Justice Department. “And I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming, but that's not true, we could see it coming.”

Biden recalled a text conversation he’d had over the last day with his granddaughter, recalling how they spoke about how differently the rioters were treated by law enforcement officers than were Black Lives Matters protesters during summer demonstrations over the death of George Floyd.

"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 from the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” he said, recalling the words of his granddaughter.

“We all know that’s true. And it’s unacceptable. Totally unacceptable,” Biden added, his voice growing loud as he stabbed his right pointer finger against his lectern for emphasis.

Riveted Americans watching the chaos unfold on Wednesday on television, computer and mobile screens across the nation and world, have expressed concern and anger on social media that law enforcement waited hours before figuring out a way to clear the Capitol of the rioters, who were almost all white. That approach presented a stark contrast to how some law enforcement operations cracked down on protests for racial justice over the summer in many American cities.

Biden, meanwhile, didn’t hesitate to again pin the violence on Trump, whom he said had been a “president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, the Constitution, the rule of law clear in everything he has done.”

He then turned his attention to the purpose of the event: to announce Merrick Garland, the federal judge who Republicans denied a seat on the Supreme Court in 2016, as his nominee as attorney general.

“More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence, of the Department of Justice in this nation that's been so badly damaged,” Biden said, before introducing Garland as the right person to do just that.

Garland, 68, has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1997.

Garland, a veteran jurist and a moderate, is seen as someone who could help restore the Justice Department’s independence — a Biden priority after criticism that Trump exerted too much influence over the department.

"Our president is not above the law," Biden said. "Justice serves the people, it doesn't protect the powerful."

Speaking after Biden, Garland said that, "to serve as attorney general at this critical time" is "a calling I am honor and eager to answer," before tying that desire to Wednesday's tragedy.

"As everyone who watched yesterday's events, now understands ... the rule of law is not just some lawyers' turn of phrase, it is the very foundation of our democracy."

Garland rose to prominence in 2016 after then-President Barack Obama nominated him to fill the Supreme Court vacancy that opened up after the death of conservative jurist Antonin Scalia.

But Senate Republicans, who controlled the chamber then, refused to even hold a hearing for Garland, let alone a vote. They cited at the time something they dubbed the "Biden Rule" on judicial nominee hearings during election years, claiming that Supreme Court vacancies that emerge during election years should be filled by the next elected president. Trump ultimately nominated Neil Gorsuch for Scalia's seat, and the GOP-controlled Senate confirmed him in 2017.

Senate Republicans disregarded that so-called rule four years later, when, just days before the 2020 election, they voted to confirm to the high court Amy Coney Barrett, who had been nominated by Trump to fill the vacancy created by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September.

Biden, at the event, also officially introduced Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general, Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general and Kristen Clarke as assistant attorney general for civil rights.

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