Biden warns GOP could set nation on ‘path of chaos’ as Democratic system faces strain

Biden warns GOP could set nation on ‘path of chaos’ as Democratic system faces strain


Signs of tension in the nation’s democratic system grew Wednesday with less than a week to go medium term electionss, as President Biden warned that candidates who refuse to accept Tuesday’s results could set the nation on a “path of chaos.”

Biden’s grim assessment in a speech Wednesday night came after the FBI and other agencies forecast that threats of violence from domestic extremists are likely to increase after the election. In Arizona, voters complained of intimidation by self-appointed trash watchers — some of them armed — prompting a federal judge to impose tough new restrictions. And the GOP has stepped up litigation in several states in an effort to throw out some ballots and expand access to party poll watchers.

Speaking at Washington’s Union Station – a stone’s throw from the US Capitol, which was attacked by pro-Trump crowds after the country’s last major election – Biden warned of the ongoing assault on American democracy. President he spoke as a growing number of major Republican candidates said they could follow in the footsteps of former President Donald Trump and refuse to concede if they lose.

“It’s unprecedented. It’s illegal. And that’s un-American,” Biden said. “Like I said before, you can’t love your country only when you’re winning.”

Most GOP candidates are denying or questioning the results of the 2020 election

The almost unprecedented presidential message – a plea to Americans to embrace the basic principles of their democracy – came as millions of voters had already cast ballots or planned to go to the polls on Election Day, and as some election officials expressed confidence that the system would hold.

Biden spoke days after an assailant armed with a hammer broke into the San Francisco home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and beat her 82-year-old husband, Paul, according to police and prosecutors. Biden began by addressing the gruesome attack early Friday morning.

“We must, with one overwhelming unified voice, speak as a country and say that there is no place in America, no place for voter intimidation or political violence, whether directed at Democrats or Republicans,” he said. “No room, period. There is no place, ever.”

Last week, multiple government agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, issued a memo warning that threats posed by domestic violent extremists are likely to increase in the 90 days following the election, according to a copy of the document obtained by The Washington Post.

The memo outlined possible scenarios that could trigger more violence, including “real or perceived efforts to prevent access to voting.”

“After the 2022 midterm elections, perceptions of electoral fraud and dissatisfaction with the election outcome are likely to result in increased threats of violence against a wide range of targets – such as ideological opponents and election workers,” the memo said.

Election officials said they didn’t quite know what to expect, given promises by various Trump-supporting organizations to flood the polls and count sites with party observers. Trump’s allies have urged his supporters to mount frequent challenges, a move officials say could derail the process.

In recent months, Biden has spoken more forcefully about the threats Republicans pose to democracy. While he began alluding in the spring to “MAGA Republicans” — a moniker he uses to distinguish those associated with Trump from more traditional conservatives — Biden addressed the issue in uncharacteristically blunt terms at a fundraiser in late August, warning that the GOP was headed toward “semi-fascism “.

On Wednesday night, Biden blasted democracy as part of an ongoing attack launched two years ago by Trump and the Republican Party he still leads. The pro-Trump faction of the party, he said, “is trying to succeed where they failed in 2020: suppress voter disenfranchisement and undermine the election system itself.”

Even before Biden spoke on Wednesday, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel issued a statement calling his words “desperate and dishonest.”

“Joe Biden promised unity, but instead demonized and smeared Americans while making life more expensive for everyone,” McDaniel said. “While Republicans remain focused on the issues that matter most to voters, Biden and the Democrats are floundering.”

Wednesday night’s speech was Biden’s most direct address about the threats facing America’s democratic system since Sept. 1, when he gave a speech outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia and warned that “too much of what is happening in our country today is not normal.”

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” he said at the time.

Shortly after Biden’s speech in Philadelphia, top White House officials began talking about holding another similar speech on threats to democracy, according to a person familiar with the planning who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

Biden’s speech Wednesday had been in the works for several weeks, the person said. But the introduction was redone to address the attack on Paul Pelosi. Biden also singled out Republicans who have been subject to campaign threats and violence, including former Vice President Mike Pence and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Biden urged voters to be patient after the election, noting that rules for counting ballots mean some outcomes may not be immediately clear.

“It has always been important for citizens in a democracy to be informed and engaged,” he said. “Now it’s important for citizens to be patient.”

And he urged citizens to consider the future of democracy when casting their ballots on Tuesday, saying they should vote “knowing what we are in danger of becoming”.

“We know in our bones that democracy is under threat,” he said. “We also know this: it is in our power, each of us, to preserve our democracy.”

Unlike their Democratic counterparts, many Republicans in key races across the country declined to say whether they would accept the results of Tuesday’s election.

“We’ll see what happens,” Republican Sen. Ron Johnson told reporters Tuesday in Wisconsin. He is in a tight race with Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes, his state’s lieutenant governor. “I mean, is something going to happen on election day? Do the Democrats have something up their sleeve?”

The president’s address came after developments inside and outside the courtroom served to underscore concerns about whether next week’s election will go smoothly and whether the results will be widely accepted as legitimate.

The Justice Department said multiple divisions of the major law enforcement agency will work to ensure the voting process runs safely and smoothly across the country.

The Department’s Civil Rights Division, which is charged with enforcing laws related to voting rights, said it will monitor the voting process nationwide to ensure that jurisdictions comply with federal voting laws. The department has not said how many people it will send or where it will send them. On Election Day 2020, it sent observers to 44 jurisdictions, including Gwinnett County in Georgia, Broward County in Florida, and Fairfax County in Virginia.

The department already has measured election lawsuit in Arizona, which supports the League of Women Voters of Arizona’s claim that oversight ballot boxesincluding recording voters depositing their ballots, may constitute unlawful voter intimidation.

On Tuesday, US District Judge Michael Liburdi, who was appointed to the bench by Trump, agreedissuing a far-reaching row limiting what the Arizona group Clean Elections USA or its allies can do or say near the ballot box. This ruling prevents observers from taking photos or videos of voters and using the material to spread unfounded allegations of electoral fraud. Clean Elections USA was among the groups repeating claims that “ballot traffickers” illegally placed multiple ballots in boxes ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Bill Gates, chairman of the board that oversees Maricopa County, home to most of Arizona’s voters, said “the rest of the world” will watch America conduct its elections as truth and misinformation collide.

“There is a real concern that something is wrong with our democratic republic … and that Arizona … and Maricopa County is where this kind of battle is taking place,” said Gates, a Republican.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court told counties not to count undated handwritten mail-in ballots, but left unanswered key legal questions about the issue, including how it would be resolved if the critical state be tight. GOP voters, as well as state and national parties, have sued over the issue, arguing that state law requires any undated or incorrectly dated ballots to be considered invalid.

Attorneys for Leigh M. Chapman, the state’s top election official in the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf (D), argued that multiple courts have previously ruled that undated ballots should be counted and that counties have no way of determining whether a date on a mailing envelope is “false”. They argued that a decision not to count those ballots would introduce confusion and disenfranchise legal voters.

The case was part of a flood of lawsuits already filed over the election practice, lawsuits that could spike after Election Day if key races are close. The RNC said it is involved in lawsuits in Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin to expand access to party observers and pollsters.

A Wisconsin judge on Wednesday ordered a Green Bay city clerk to give observers more access, a day after a group of observers filed a lawsuit saying they could not observe all aspects of early voting. City officials said they are making more areas available for observation in response to the lawsuit. The RNC hailed the ruling as a victory for transparency.

As the votes are cast and counted, more and more are decided in the courtrooms

Democrats could challenge the GOP’s actions in court, extending the campaign for days after Tuesday’s vote. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for governor, told reporters on his campaign bus in Pittsburgh on Tuesday that he would use the courts if necessary to protect the vote.

“I am confident that if there is a legal process to go through, the will of the people will be respected,” said Shapiro, who is running against state Sen. Doug Mastrian (R), a leading proponent of false claims the 2020 election was stolen.

Mastriano was one of a dozen Republican candidates in competitive races for governor and Senate who declined to say whether they would accept the results of their contests in a September poll by The Washington Post.

In Wisconsin, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels suggested at a campaign stop Monday that his election would result in permanent GOP control of the state.

“Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I’m elected governor,” Michels said.

Michels is in a tight race with Gov. Tony Evers (D). The five-second clip of Michels saying that Republicans would never lose another election if he won was posted on Twitter by the liberal group American Bridge.

His spokesman later said he meant only that he would do a good job and that voters would reward his party, but Democrats feared he was hinting at an overhaul of the way state elections are conducted.

Emma Brown, Amy Gardner, Colby Itkowitz, Annie Linskey, Patrick Marley, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Maria Sacchetti and Annabelle Timsit contributed to this report.

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