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Biden: Trump 'Can't Stop The Violence Because For Years He Has Fomented It'

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden denounced President Trump during remarks in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Monday.
Saul Loeb
AFP via Getty Images
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden denounced President Trump during remarks in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Monday.

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Monday forcefully pushed back against President Trump's campaign message that voters wouldn't be safe under a Biden administration.

"The simple truth is Donald Trump failed to protect America. So now he's trying to scare America," Biden said in remarks at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Biden called Trump power hungry and lambasted the president for what Biden sees as a lack of moral leadership — a common refrain from the former vice president on the campaign trail.

"We are facing multiple crises — crises that, under Donald Trump, keep multiplying," Biden said. "COVID, economic devastation, unwarranted police violence, emboldened white nationalists, a reckoning on race, declining faith in a bright American future. The common thread? An incumbent president who makes things worse, not better. An incumbent president who sows chaos rather than providing order."

Biden's trip to Pennsylvania comes amid national protests in response to police violence and the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. That shooting has led to several days of unrest in the city, which resulted in the shooting deaths of two people, allegedly by an armed vigilante. In Portland, Ore., a man was fatally shot during a night of confrontations between Trump supporters and counterprotesters.

"[Trump] can't stop the violence because for years he has fomented it," Biden said. "He may believe mouthing the words 'law and order' makes him strong, but his failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is."

Trump, who will travel to Latrobe, Pa., on Thursday for a campaign event, apparently watched Biden's remarks and tweeted that in his view, Biden is "blaming the Police far more than he's blaming the Rioters, Anarchists, Agitators, and Looters."

Trump continues to present himself as a " tough on crime" president, a message that was front and center during last week's Republican convention.

In a statement after Biden's remarks, Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director, said: "As predicted, Joe Biden today failed to condemn the left-wing mobs burning, looting, and terrorizing American cities."

But Biden indeed double down on an earlier statement condemning violence that's come out of various protests, saying on Monday: "Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It's lawlessness, plain and simple."

He added that those who loot and burn buildings should be prosecuted.

"You know my heart," Biden added in Pittsburgh. "You know my story, my family's story. Ask yourself: Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really? I want a safe America, safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops."

Biden said Trump looks at instances of violence as his "political lifeline."

"He keeps telling you if only he was president, it wouldn't happen," Biden said. "If he was president, you'd feel safe. Well, he is president, whether he knows it or not. And it is happening. It's getting worse and you know why? Because Donald Trump adds fuel to every fire."

Biden argued he would be able to unite the country and foster healing, saying he would abandon the divisive language Trump uses and get both police and those fighting for racial justice to the table to bring about lasting change.

Biden then seemingly tried to use Trump's tactics against him, saying the real fear Americans feel comes from the destabilization that has happened because of Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his plans to undermine Social Security programs and his relationship with leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Never before has an American president played such a subservient role to a Russian leader. It's not only dangerous, it's humiliating and embarrassing for the rest of the world to see. It weakens us," Biden said.

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Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.