Biden denounces Trump as ‘extremist’ and ‘dangerous’ in speech praising John McCain

Joe Biden lashed out at Donald Trump on Thursday, delivering his sharpest condemnation of the former president since he took office.

Speaking in the battleground state of Arizona, the US president called Mr Trump – who could be his 2024 opponent – “extremist” and “dangerous” and his “Make America Great Again (MAGA)” movement a direct threat to American democracy.

“This MAGA threat is a threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions,” Mr Biden said. “It’s also a threat to the character of our nation that gives our constitution life, that binds us together as Americans, a common cause.”

“None of this is surprising, though. They’ve tried to govern that way before. Thank God they failed. But they haven’t given up,” he said.

The speech marked a major shift in his tone as Mr Biden has generally avoided taking the name of the former president or directly addressing him. This time he cited examples of what Mr Trump said in his speeches.

Mr Biden, a Democrat, was at an event to honour the late Republican senator John McCain of Arizona – a former presidential candidate, fighter pilot, and Vietnam prisoner of war who Mr Trump denounced as “not a war hero”.

Mr Biden also recalled remarks that Mr Trump reportedly made after he abandoned a plan to visit an American military cemetery outside of Paris in 2018. The Atlantic reported at the time that Mr Trump had called the war dead “suckers” and “losers”, comments that Mr Trump denied.

“Is John a sucker?” Mr Biden said of McCain, then posed the same question about his son Beau Biden, who, like McCain, died of brain cancer, which Mr Biden believes his son contracted from military service near an Iraqi burn pit.

He also referred to a 2019 speech of the former president where he said the Article 2 of the US constitution gave him “the right to do whatever I want as president”. Article 2 spells out the powers and duties of presidency.

Mr Biden said: “I’ve never even heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans, but by vengeance and vindictiveness.”

“What is it they intend to do,” Mr Biden said, “once they erode the constitutional order of checks and balances and separation of powers? Limit the independence of federal agencies? Put them under the thumb of a president?”

“There’s something dangerous happening in America now,” Mr Biden said. “There’s an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy.”

“We should all remember: democracies don’t have to die at the end of a rifle. They can die when people are silent, when they fail to stand up, or condemn threats to democracy,” Mr Biden stated.

Despite a long list of federal and state indictments accusing him of using various levers of power to try to overturn his loss in the 2020 election, Mr Trump remains a heavy favorite to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

If he does, he will be challenging Mr Biden in the 2024 race.

The comments came as House Republicans held their first impeachment hearing into Mr Biden on Thursday, with members of both sides branding it a “disaster” for the GOP.

The White House has dismissed the allegations of corruption and the impeachment proceedings as a baseless political stunt. Former president Donald Trump has pushed House Republicans to impeach Mr Biden as revenge for his two impeachments.

All four of the witnesses at the hearing told Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, that they weren’t presenting any firsthand accounts of wrongdoing by Mr Biden.