Biden’s speech in the first hour to call Trump, his faithful

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly two years after defeating Donald Trump, President Joe Biden has some unfinished business to settle with the turbulent forces of Trumpism.

Biden planned to use a prime-time speech Thursday night at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to frame the November election, less than 10 weeks away, as part of an ongoing battle for the “soul of the nation.” It’s a rehash of his 2020 campaign theme that he’s now using to cast the current stakes in terms as ugly as those that sent him to the Oval Office two years ago.

Biden, who largely avoided even referring to the “former guy” by name during his first year in office, has become increasingly vocal in calling out Trump personally. White House officials say this reflects the urgency with which it views the threat from Trump and his loyalists.

Emboldened by a string of legislative victories, the president is sharpening his criticism of Republicans as the “super MAGA” party — a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan — that opposes his agenda, embraces conservative ideological propositions and spreads Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.

“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death of an extreme ‘MAGA’ philosophy,” Biden told Democrats at a Maryland fundraiser last week. “It’s not just Trump, it’s the whole philosophy behind the — I’ll say something, it’s like semi-fascism.”

In Philadelphia, White House officials said, Biden plans to return to the 2017 white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, which he says led him out of political retirement to challenge Trump. Biden plans to argue that the country faces a similar crossroads in the coming months.

“The president believes there is an extremist threat to our democracy,” White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said Wednesday. “It does not stop. To be continued.”

Biden’s allies stressed that he is not rejecting the entire Democratic Party and would use his remarks to call on traditional Republicans to join him in condemning Trump and his supporters. It’s a balancing act, given that more than 74 million people voted for Trump in 2020.

“I respect conservative Republicans,” Biden said last week. “I have no respect for these MAGA Republicans.”

Larry Diamond, a democracy expert and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said Trump’s call for attacks on democracy “can be manipulated or seen as partisan. And if you don’t call it out, you’re taking away an important challenge for the defense of democracy”.

Even this week, Trump was posting on his beleaguered social media platform about overturning the 2020 election results and holding a new presidential election, which would violate the Constitution.

Timothy Naftali, a historian of the presidency at New York University, said it’s not unusual for there to be tension between a president and his successor, but “it’s unprecedented for a former president to actively try to undermine the U.S. Constitution.”

“The challenge facing President Biden is to continue with his agenda while still doing what is necessary to uphold the Constitution,” Naftali said. “It’s not easy”.

The White House has sought to keep Biden out of the legal and political maelstrom surrounding the Justice Department’s discovery of classified documents at Trump’s Florida home. Biden took advantage of some Republicans’ reflexive condemnation of federal law enforcement.

“You can’t be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurgency,” Biden said Tuesday in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.

Biden’s appearance Thursday night was promoted as a taxpayer-funded official event, a sign of how the president views defeating Trump’s agenda as much a policy goal as a political one. The major television networks were not expected to broadcast the address live.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy planned to speak Thursday afternoon in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born, about Biden’s “assault on the soul of America,” accusing the president of planning to “continue to belittle the hard working Americans.” In a preview of his remarks on Fox News, McCarthy, R-Calif., said Biden was “trying to distract from the destruction he has created in this country.”

Biden’s trip to Philadelphia will be one of three in the state in a week, a sign of Pennsylvania’s importance in the midterms, with competitive Senate and governor races. Trump is planning a rally there this weekend.

The White House intended the speech to bring together familiar themes: the bipartisan gun and infrastructure legislative victory as proof that democracies “can succeed,” pushing the GOP’s “extreme” gun and abortion policies out of step with most people’s opinions. , and rejecting efforts to undermine confidence in the nation’s elections or diminish its standing abroad.

The challenges to democracy have only multiplied following the turmoil surrounding the 2020 presidential election.

Lies surrounding this race have sparked a wave of harassment and death threats against state and local election officials and new restrictions on mail-in voting in Republican-dominated states. County election officials have faced pressure to ban the use of voting equipment, efforts fueled by conspiracy theories that voting machines were somehow manipulated to steal the election.

Candidates challenging Trump’s defeat have been inspired to run for state and local election seats, promising to restore integrity to a system undermined by false claims and conspiracy theories. Some claimed fraud had spread and supported efforts to confirm Biden’s victory.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting machines. Judges, including those appointed by Trump, have dismissed dozens of lawsuits filed after the election, and Trump’s own attorney general has called the allegations false. But an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that about two-thirds of Republicans say they don’t believe Biden was legitimately elected president in 2020.

This year, election officials face not only the threat of foreign interference, but also ransomware, politically motivated hackers and insider threats. In the past year, security breaches have been reported at a small number of local election offices in which authorities are investigating whether office staff improperly accessed or provided improper access to sensitive voting technology.

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Associated Press writer Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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