Both President-elect Joe Biden and his attorney general nominee, U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland, had withering words for the current occupant of the Oval Office.
(CN) — President-elect Joe Biden introduced his attorney general pick Merrick Garland during a speech Thursday in which he emphasized the importance of restoring the rule of law he said has been so thoroughly degraded by President Donald Trump during the past four years.
“This is a team that will restore your faith and trust in the institutions of our democracy,” Biden said.
But he spent most of the speech slamming his predecessor, saying Wednesday’s unprecedented attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters is the culmination of Trump’s effort to constantly erode and degrade the independence and fairness of federal institutions and the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming,” Biden said. “But this president has made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution and our rule of law clear in everything he has done.”
Trump has treated the attorney general as his personal lawyer and the Justice Department as his personal law firm and used violent means to clear protesters from the grounds of the White House so he could pose in front of a church with a Bible, Biden said.
“He stacked the courts with friendly judges and went so far as to say he would fill all nine Supreme Court seats because he thought the election would end up in the Supreme Court and they would hand him the election,” Biden said.
But while the president-elect was critical of Trump’s entire record on the rule of law, he also noted Wednesday’s events, where hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to disrupt Congress’ certification of Biden as the next U.S. president, represented a low point for all involved.
“It was one of the darkest days in the history of our nation,” Biden said. “I grieve the loss of life, grieve the desecration of the People’s House.”
Trump has lurched from scandal to scandal during his tenure in the White House, often emerging unscathed and seemingly more powerful, holding sway over the Republican Party. But Wednesday’s events appear to have brought that trend to an end, as many of the Republicans who supported Trump during previous scandals turned on the president.
Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s staunchest supporters, said Wednesday night he was through backing the president.
“All I can say is, count me out,” an emotional Graham said from the Senate floor. “Enough is enough — it is over.”
Biden also expressed dismay with the way Trump supporters were treated by Capitol law enforcement Wednesday compared to Black Lives Matter protesters this past summer who were often beaten and arrested.
“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday there wouldn’t — they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” Biden said.
Garland also spoke Thursday, saying he would strive to restore integrity to a Justice Department many felt went too far in allowing itself to become a political instrument for Trump’s politically motivated retributions.
“Nothing can more weaken the quality of life than our failure to make clear by words and deed our law is not the instrument of partisan purpose,” he said during a brief speech after Biden spoke.
Garland also talked about the difficulties the Justice Department faced immediately after the Nixon years, praising the attorneys general who worked steadily to restore widespread faith in the institution.
Had Republicans retained their narrow majority in the Senate, Garland would have been an unlikely nominee. But two upset wins by Democrats in Georgia on Tuesday mean Biden’s cabinet picks should face little opposition now.
President Barack Obama nominated Garland to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, but Republican senators refused to take up the nomination until after the 2016 presidential election. Trump prevailed in that election, after which he nominated, and Republicans confirmed, Neil Gorsuch.
Garland’s nomination is perceived by some as retribution.
Biden also said he will select a nominee to fill Garland’s seat on the D.C. Circuit, a court he called “the second most powerful” in the country behind the Supreme Court.
Biden also nominated Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to serve as Commerce secretary, according to multiple reports. Raimondo was a strong candidate to serve as Biden’s vice president and has received high marks for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic in her state.
Sources say Biden will appoint Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as his Labor secretary and Isbel Guzman as the head of the Small Business Administration. Guzman currently serves as the director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate.