United States President-elect Joe Biden had harsh words on Thursday for the pro-Trump mob that stormed the US Capitol, as well as for President Donald Trump himself, blaming him squarely for the violence.
“What we witnessed yesterday was not dissent, it was not disorder, it was not protest. It was chaos,” Biden said on Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware. “They weren’t protestors. Don’t dare call them protestors. They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists.”
“I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming. But that isn’t true. We could see it coming.”
“The past four years, we’ve had a president who’s made his contempt for democracy, our constitution, the rule of law, clear in everything he has done,” Biden continued.
“He’s unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of our democracy from the outset. And yesterday was the culmination of that unrelenting attack.”
Biden’s remarks came just before he introduced Merrick Garland, his pick for attorney general, and vowed a dramatic change of course from the Trump administration regarding the US Department of Justice.
“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 declared. “More than anything, we need to restore the honour, the integrity, the independence of the Department of Justice that’s been so badly damaged.”
If confirmed by the Senate, which is likely, Garland would take over as the nation’s top law enforcement official at a critical moment for the agency and the country. 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.
Garland would also inherit the special counsel investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, which remains open.
Garland’s nomination will force Senate Republicans to contend with someone they spurned four years ago — refusing even to hold hearings when former President Barack Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court. His confirmation prospects were all but ensured this week when Democrats scored control of the Senate majority by winning both US Senate seats in Georgia.
Garland and three others Biden has picked for Justice Department leadership posts were introduced Thursday afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware. They include Obama administration homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general. 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.
Garland was selected over other finalists including former Senator Doug Jones, and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
Garland would inherit a Justice Department that has endured a tumultuous four years and abundant criticism from Democrats over what they see as the over-politicisation 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 hands of law enforcement.
Biden referenced what he saw as a “clear failure to carry out equal justice” in how law enforcement handled Wednesday’s rioters.
“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,” Biden said.
“We all know that’s true. And it’s unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, Biden will select Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as his labour secretary and pick Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to lead the Commerce Department, news agencies reported, citing people familiar with the decisions.
Walsh, 53, has served as the Democratic mayor of Boston since 2014, and is a former union worker who shares Biden’s Irish-American background and working-class roots. When he took the oath of office for his second term as Boston’s chief executive in 2018, Biden presided over the inauguration. His selection was confirmed by a person familiar with the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Before that, Walsh served as a state representative for more than a decade.
Raimondo, a former venture capitalist, is in her second term as governor of Rhode Island and previously served as state treasurer. Her name had been floated for Biden’s health secretary, though she said last month she would be staying in Rhode Island and continuing to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.
The Commerce Department is the official face of US business overseas, but also runs key federal departments such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Patent and Trademark Office and the US Census Bureau.