Washington — President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday excoriated President Trump for inciting across his four years in office the violence perpetrated by a mob of his supporters at the U.S. Capitol the day before and lamented the contrasting treatment the "mob of thugs" received from law enforcement compared to those protesting police brutality and racial injustice.
"No one can tell me that if that 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," Mr. Biden said in remarks from Wilmington, Delaware. "We all know that's true and it is unacceptable. totally unacceptable. The American people saw in plain view and I hope it sensitized them to what we have to do."
Mr. Biden said the chaos that erupted at the Capitol was not only a failure to protect one of the three branches of government, but also a "clear failure to carry out equal justice."
The scene "vividly demonstrated some of the most important work we have to do in this nation, committing ourselves to the rule of law in this nation."
The president-elect remarked on the chaotic and deadly scene that unfolded at the Capitol during the event set up to announce Judge Merrick Garland as his nominee for attorney general, as well as three others to serve in the highest ranks of the Justice Department.
"You won't work for me. You are the not the president or the vice president's lawyer," he told them. "Your loyalty is not to me. It's to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation to guarantee justice."
Mr. Biden detailed a four-year-long campaign mounted by Mr. Trump attacking the nation's institutions, including the press, the Justice Department and the federal judiciary, praising the judges appointed by the president for withstanding pressures to throw out the election results.
"I wish we could say we couldn't see it coming, but that isn't true. We could see it coming," he said. "For the past four years, we've had a president whose made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law clear in everything he has done. He has unleashed an all-out assault on our institutions of democracy from the outset, and yesterday was but the culmination of that unrelenting attack."
Mr. Biden called Wednesday "one of the darkest days of the history of our nation," in which an "unprecedented assault on our democracy" took place.
"It was chaos," he said. "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."
The president-elect lambasted Mr. Trump for treating the attorney general as his "personal attorney" and the Justice Department as his "own personal law firm" and vowed to restore independence to the agency.
"Our democratic institutions are not relics of another age, they're what sets this nation apart," he said. "They're the guardrails of our democracy, and that's why there is no president who is a king, no Congress that is a House of Lords, a judiciary doesn't serve the will of the president or exist to protect him or her. We have three co-equal branches of government, co-equal. Our president is not above the law, justice serves the people. It doesn't protect the powerful. Justice is blind."
Like Mr. Biden, former Attorney General Bill Barr, who served in the Trump administration until December, condemned the president for his role in the crisis at the Capitol.
"Orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable," he said in a statement. "The president's conduct yesterday was a betrayal of his office and supporters."
Garland currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and was nominated by former President Barack Obama to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court in 2016. But that nomination was blocked by Senate Republicans, who argued a president couldn't appoint a Supreme Court justice in the final year of his presidency.
In addition to serving on the D.C. Circuit, where he was its chief judge until February 2020, Garland is a veteran of the Justice Department, leading the prosecutions of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, and Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber." Garland's appointment to serve as attorney general will create a vacancy on the D.C. Circuit, considered the nation's second most powerful court, and Mr. Biden vowed to swiftly nominate a replacement.
In addition to Garland, Mr. Biden announced a trio of other nominees to fill the top ranks of the Justice Department: Lisa Monaco for deputy attorney general, Vanita Gupta for associate attorney general and Kristen Clarke for assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.
Ahead of Mr. Biden's announcement, his transition team said his nominees "reflect the president-elect's deeply held commitment to reaffirming the Department of Justice as a pillar of independence and integrity, and ensuring that the attorney general and his senior leadership team are the American people's lawyers — not the president's law firm."
Garland was selected by Mr. Biden over numerous notable candidates, including former Alabama Senator Doug Jones and former deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.