President Joe Biden on Thursday portrayed former President Donald Trump and his supporters as a threat to government institutions and the Constitution itself, eviscerating his likely opponent in the 2024 general election for disparaging top military officials and for his plans to exert more control over the entire federal bureaucracy.
“Today’s Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists,” Biden said in an address from Tempe, Ariz., referring to Trump’s popular “Make America Great Again” slogan. He described Trump — who he referred to as the “defeated former president” — as a “threat to the brick and mortar of our federal government institutions” and the “character of our nation.”
Biden explicitly referred to proposals by Trump and other GOP candidates to exert more power over the federal government. Trump has often waged against the “deep state” and in the waning days of his administration issued an executive order called “Schedule F” that aimed to do away with many civil servants. (Biden eventually reversed the order when he took office.)
GOP contender Vivek Ramaswamy has also laid out plans to get rid of the FBI, ATF, the Education Department and other key agencies. The Heritage Foundation has launched a multi-million dollar project to staff the next Republican administration and whittle back the administrative state.
“MAGA extremists proclaim support for law enforcement only to say, ‘we must destroy the FBI,’” Biden said.
During his speech Thursday, Biden also honored the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., announcing funding for a new library named after his longtime friend.
This was the fourth speech that Biden has given to highlight what he says are grave threats to American democracy, and it was perhaps his most forceful and direct confrontation of Trump yet, as the two head toward a likely rematch in the 2024 election.
At one point, Biden read a quote from one of Trump’s posts on Truth Social suggesting outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley would have faced punishment by “death” over calls he made to a Chinese general.
“Although I don’t believe even a majority of Republicans think that, the silence is deafening,” Biden said.
His remarks crystalized Democrats’ strategy to repeat their messaging from the 2022 midterms that branded Republican candidates as “extreme MAGA” and warned of the threat Trump poses to democracy by invoking the Jan. 6 insurrection.
But Biden reoriented the argument on Thursday, also taking on explicit proposals from Trump and other GOP candidates.