August 30

By Lauren Camera

President Joe Biden mounted an assault on “MAGA Republicans” on Tuesday in a searing speech on gun safety, crime and law enforcement, lashing out at former President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters for defending rioters who stormed the Capitol last year, for calling to defund the FBI and for refusing to support stricter gun safety measures.

“Let me say this to my MAGA Republican friends in Congress: Don’t tell me you support law enforcement if you won’t condemn what happened on the sixth,” he said in a speech delivered in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, referring to the Jan. 6, 2021 assault.

“For God’s sake whose side are you on? Whose side are you on?” Biden continued. “You’re either on the side of the mob or on the side of the police. You can’t be pro-law enforcement or pro-insurrection. You can’t be a party of law and order and call the people who attacked the police on Jan. 6, ‘patriots.’ You can’t do it.”

The president also slammed GOP lawmakers for their most recent calls to defund the FBI in the wake of the search warrant executed on Trump’s residence at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, and for inciting supporters to threaten law enforcement agents involved in the ongoing investigation.

“It’s sickening to see the new attacks on the FBI, threatening the lives of law enforcement agents and their families for simply carrying out the law and doing their job,” Biden said.

And without naming him, the president called out Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina for recent comments that “there literally will be riots in the street” if the Justice Department tries to prosecute Trump for mishandling classified documents.

“No one expects politics to be a patty-cake. Sometimes it’s mean as hell,” Biden said. “But the idea that you turn on the television and you see senior senators and congressmen saying, ‘If such and such happens there’ll be blood in the street’ where the hell are we?”

Biden’s appearance in Pennsylvania on Tuesday marked the first of three major visits to his birth state this week, including one to Philadelphia on Thursday where he’s set to deliver a primetime speech about what’s at stake in the midterm elections, and another to Pittsburgh, where he’ll participate in the city’s Labor Day parade festivities.

The visits come as former President Donald Trump has a rally scheduled in the Keystone State for Saturday and underscores the significance of the highly competitive battleground state where a Senate seat and a governorship are up for grabs.

The president’s speech on Tuesday, which he was originally set to deliver earlier this month but was postponed after he tested positive for COVID-19, served to promote the administration’s Safer America Plan and underscore how – in contrast to a chorus of calls by civil rights and social justice activists and many progressives to defund the police – it would invest more resources for state and local law enforcement and prioritize community policing.

“When it comes to public safety in this nation, the answer is not defund the police, it’s fund the police,” Biden said. “Fund the police.”

“We expect them to do everything,” he said. “We’re in a situation in this county where we have to give them additional resources they need to get their job done.”

Among other things, the plan calls for hiring more than 100,000 new police officers, investing in mental health and substance-use treatment services, crisis responders and social workers to reduce the burden on police officers, as well as establishing background checks as a requirement for all gun sales and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Congress passed bipartisan gun safety legislation, the Safer Communities Act, earlier this year in the wake of the massacres at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and at a high school in Uvalde, Texas – the first gun safety package in three decades. But more needs to be done, Biden said, urging Republicans to flout the influential National Rifle Association and support banning of assault weapons and more stringent background checks.

Recounting his visits with families in the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Biden said parents were asked for their DNA in order to identify their children because the bullets from the AR-15 that the 18-year-old shooter had bought days prior rendered their bodies unidentifiable.

“For God’s sake, what’s the rationale for these weapons outside of a warzone,” he asked. “They inflict severe damage. What the hell is the matter with us? I’m not joking. Think about it. What are we doing?”

The president’s elevated tone is just the latest example of the White House forging an uncharacteristically aggressive offensive in the wake of some major wins ahead of the midterm elections – and one that Biden is set to invoke again on Thursday evening.