President Biden warned Thursday that Donald Trump leads an “extremist movement” that would undermine the nation’s institutions, as he touts efforts to protect democracy as a centerpiece of his reelection campaign.
The former president represents a group that “does not share the basic beliefs of our democracy,” and is a risk to the country, Biden said.
“There is something dangerous happening in America,” the president said.
The location of Biden’s speech carried symbolic meaning: It was in Arizona near an institute dedicated to the late Republican Senator John McCain, a friend of Biden who denounced Trump’s brand of politics as well as autocrats worldwide.
“Not every Republican — not even the majority of Republicans — adheres to the extremist MAGA ideology,” he said. “I know it because I’ve been able to work with Republicans my whole career. But there is no question that today’s Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists.”
Biden’s speech comes one day after Republican candidates held their second debate without Trump, who has consolidated his lead in the GOP primary on promises to use executive powers to root out federal bureaucrats who disagree with his views, carry out mass deportations of migrants, and send the US military to major cities to fight crime.
“They’re pushing the notion that the defeated former president expressed when he was in office and believes applies only to him,” Biden said of Trump and his allies. “Trump says the Constitution gave him ‘the right to do whatever he wants as president.’”
“Did you ever think you’d hear leaders of political parties in the United States of America speak like that?” Biden asked the audience.
Arizona is a battleground state where Biden beat Trump by less than half a percentage point in 2020, fueling his political rival’s false claims the election was stolen. Funds from his 2021 stimulus package will go toward building a new presidential-style library dedicated to McCain, who was the 2008 GOP presidential nominee. Biden grew emotional as he spoke about McCain.
Biden, 80, has highlighted themes of protecting democracy often, casting Trump and his supporters as extreme and a persistent threat to US institutions. He made his case in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall ahead of last year’s midterms and at this year’s State of the Union, when he highlighted the attack on former House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband by a hammer-wielding intruder who spouted conspiracy theories.
Thursday’s address comes at a critical time in Biden’s reelection bid, as he battles low approval ratings, questions about his economic stewardship, and voter concerns about his age. Polls show Biden running neck and neck with Trump in a hypothetical 2024 rematch.
Trump continues to make controversial comments, especially on his Truth Social account, where in recent weeks he has suggested that the top US general deserves execution, accused the news media of treason, attacked prosecutors and judges in criminal cases he is facing, and repeated his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Biden defended the general, outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, and criticized Republicans for failing to condemn “such heinous statements.”
“Democracies don’t have to die at the end of a rifle,” Biden said. “They can die when people are silent.”
Menendez tells colleagues he won’t resign
New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez told fellow Democrats he won’t resign his seat despite a growing chorus of calls from within his own party to do so following his indictment on federal corruption charges.
The embattled three-term senator was eloquent during a closed-door meeting with Senate Democrats on Thursday and said he planned to stay in his seat, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin said.
Most other Democrats, including several who have called for his resignation, refused to disclose any details of the meeting.
Menendez left through a back exit and would not answer when asked if he would cooperate with a Senate ethics investigation. He told reporters he looks forward to casting votes.
Menendez’s political support collapsed after prosecutors charged he had received bribes of gold bars, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and a Mercedes convertible in return for official favors extended to three businessmen. The bribes allegedly began around the same time federal prosecutors dropped an earlier corruption case against Menendez in 2018 following a trial that ended with a hung jury.
His wife, Nadine, and the businessmen were also charged.
Menendez, 69, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has vowed not to resign. Though he gave up the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee, more than half of Senate Democrats have called on him to quit.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has not done so, instead praising him as a dedicated public servant.
Schumer would not respond to reporters’ questions after the meeting.
Senate re-asserts more formal dress code
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution requiring male senators to wear a coat, tie, and slacks or other long pants on the chamber’s floor following days of upheaval sparked by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s decision to stop enforcing the requirement of business attire.
The resolution passed using a process known as unanimous consent.
While the move by Schumer, a New York Democrat, had come as good news to some lawmakers, including Senator John Fetterman, Democrat of Pennsylvania, who frequently dons hooded sweat shirts and basketball shorts while working — though not while on the Senate floor — other senators were incensed by the idea of weaker sartorial requirements in the chamber.
Among them were Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, who co-sponsored the resolution to overturn Schumer’s decision.
“We want those who serve inside this room in this hall to show a level of dignity and respect, which is consistent with the sacrifice they made and with the beauty of the surroundings,” Romney said Wednesday on the Senate floor.
Schumer’s request that the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms stop enforcing the policy would have meant that the country’s 100 senators would have had free rein to choose how they dressed while conducting some of the nation’s most important business. Before Schumer’s move, the Senate had followed an unwritten and unevenly enforced policy that encouraged men to wear suits and ties and women to cover their arms.