President-elect Joe Biden called Wednesday’s violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump a “God-awful” display and called on Trump to urge his supporters to evacuate the building.
Former President George W. Bush called it a “sickening and heartbreaking sight.” Former President Bill Clinton termed it “an unprecedented assault on our Capitol, our Constitution, and our country.”
“At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault,” Biden said in somber tones as he took the stage at his transition headquarters in the Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, Wednesday afternoon just after 4 p.m. (ET).
Biden had been scheduled to give a speech about the economy and perhaps answer questions about his cabinet and legislative priorities in light of the two Democratic Senate victories in Georgia. Instead, he used the time to address the attack on the Capitol building.
“The scenes of chaos unfolding at the Capitol do not reflect the true America,” Biden said. “What we are seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness.”
Trump initially sent a pair of tweets asking those involved in the assault to remain peaceful, but he notably did not ask his supporters to leave.
“I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath to defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege,” Biden said.
Moments later, Trump addressed his supporters in a recorded message and told them to go home.
“I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election stolen from us, it was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side,” Trump said outside the White House. “But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order.”
Biden has resisted engaging directly with Trump regarding his increasingly esoteric conspiracy theories about Biden’s victory and Trump’s defeat. But he has continued to slam Trump both directly and indirectly during the transition process.
“We will prevail,” Biden said Wednesday. “We must focus on the restoration of democracy, decency, honor, and respect for the rule of law.”
Biden said the country must return to “plain simple decency.”
“We should not be stoking the flames of hate and chaos at the expense of honor, decency, respect, and tolerance,” he said.
Biden walked off the stage, ignoring questions shouted from the press. But he returned to the podium to utter the following afterword:
“I am not concerned about my safety, security, or the inauguration. I’m not concerned. The American people are going to stand up, stand up now. Enough is enough is enough.”
By 6 p.m., the start of a city curfew, the Capitol building had been cleared, officials said.
“Today is a reminder, a painful one, that democracy is fragile,” Biden tweeted just after 8 p.m. (ET). “To preserve it requires people of good will, leaders with the courage to stand up, who are devoted not to pursuit of power and personal interest at any cost, but to the common good.”
George W. Bush Statement
“Laura and I are watching the scenes of mayhem unfolding at the seat of our Nation’s government in disbelief and dismay. It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic.
“I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement. The violent assault on the Capitol – and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress – was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.
“Insurrection could do grave damage to our Nation and reputation. In the United States of America, it is the fundamental responsibility of every patriotic citizen to support the rule of law.
“To those who are disappointed in the results of the election: Our country is more important than the politics of the moment. Let the officials elected by the people fulfill their duties and represent our voices in peace and safety. May God continue to bless the United States of America.”
Bill Clinton Statement
“Today we faced an unprecedented assault on our Capitol, our Constitution, and our country.
“The assault was fueled by more than four years of poison politics spreading deliberate misinformation, sowing distrust in our system, and pitting Americans against one another. The match was lit by Donald Trump and his most ardent enablers, including many in Congress, to overturn the results of an election he lost.
“The election was free, the count was fair, the result is final. We must complete the peaceful transfer of power our Constitution mandates.
“I have always believed that America is made up of good, decent people. I still do. If that’s who we really are, we must reject today’s violence, turn the page, and move forward together—honoring our Constitution, remaining committed to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
— By Matthew Renda, Courthouse News