'Do you really feel safer under Trump?': Biden says 'weak' president failed to stop 'armed militia' supporters

'He advertises himself as a figure of order. He isn't, and he's not been part of the solution thus far. He's part of the problem'

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 31 August 2020 15:07 BST
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Donald Trump's presidency has exploited fear and fanned the flames of violence against Americans, his Democratic rival Joe Biden said in remarks that took sharp aim at the president and his response to ongoing protests against racial injustice.

"This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership," the former vice president said in a speech from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Monday. "He cant stop the violence because for years he fomented it ... His failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows you how weak he is."

In a brief and furious broadcast, the candidate criticised the president's argument that Americans would be safer under his second term while his campaign relies on images from demonstrations against police brutality during his own first term.

"What's their proof? The violence they're seeing in Donald Trump's America," Mr Biden said. "These are images of Donald Trump's America today. ... It's getting worse and you know why – because Donald Trump has fuelled every fire."

He condemned Trump's campaign depiction of career moderate Joe Biden as a "Trojan horse" for socialism ushering in a wave of street violence ("Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?") and denounced riots and looting that his opponents have falsely claimed that he has encouraged.

"Rioting is not protesting, looting is not protesting, setting fires is not protesting," he said. "It's lawlessness, plain and simple."

In his pitch for a "safer" America, the former vice president questioned whether Mr Trump had made the US safer not just from the spectre of lawlessness that his campaign and right-wing media continues to pin on Mr Biden but also from a raging pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans, as well as an economic fallout that has threatened millions of jobs and businesses.

His remarks depicted a president who has upended American life by failing to offer even the illusion of safety not just from unrest but the "multiplying" crises under the Trump administration, including a public health crisis, economic devastation and unwarranted police violence.

"Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?" asked Mr Biden, who phrased the question a second time, asking, "Do you really feel safer under Trump?"

"The current president wants you to live in fear," he said. "He advertises himself as a figure of order. He isn't, and he's not been part of the solution thus far. He's part of the problem."

Mr Biden said the November election, with early voting set to begin in coming days, has reached a moment where "Donald Trump would be so desperate he'd do anything" to hold on to power.

If elected, his administration would work to "lower the temperature" of the country with "less divisive" rhetoric, eliminating a presidency that has been a "toxic presence for four years" and has poisoned how Americans talk to one another and democracy itself, Mr Biden said.

November's election will decide whether Americans choose to "rid ourselves of this toxin or make it a permanent part of this nation's character," he said.

He delivered remarks hours before the president was set to land in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following nightly demonstrations against police violence after a police officer shot seven rounds into the back of Jacob Blake, a black man who has been left paralysed by the shooting. Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old Trump supporter from Illinois who travelled to Wisconsin for the demonstrations, has been charged with killing two protesters and injuring another.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday that the president would not comment on Mr Rittenhouse's case.

But the president raged on Twitter against Democrats and promoted right-wing conspiracies after a man linked to a far-right group that has encouraged violence at protests was shot and killed in Portland on Sunday.

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