Can Joe Biden Meet the Moment?

Good evening. It’s been 5 days since the attempted right-wing coup against the United States. Mercifully President-elect Biden takes office in just 9 days. To everyone’s great relief, outgoing President Trump will not attend the Inauguration. 

The Topline

President-elect Joe Biden has often said that the white supremacist violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville was the reason he decided to run for President. That hasn’t always made for a comfortable narrative. On the campaign trail, Biden emphasized unity, togetherness, and claimed repeatedly that “this is not who we are.” As a campaign theme, it worked well and helped lead the Biden-Harris ticket to a solid victory in November. But for those of us who have watched Trump embolden extremists and seen them gain political power, influence, and mainstream acceptance, Biden’s rhetoric often felt out of alignment with reality. Even though I was proud to vote for Biden in November, more than once I found myself wondering if he was ready to meet the moment America is facing.

Now here we are, less than one week out from an attempted coup against the United States. A coup that President Trump instigated, a fact that is now memorialized in a pending Article of Impeachment before the House of Representatives. The more we learn about what went on inside the Capitol building, the more we realize how much worse it could have been, how close the insurrectionists came to harming and potentially killing members of Congress, Vice President Pence, and possibly Vice President-elect Harris. If Unite the Right was the inspiration for Joe Biden to run for President, the events of last Wednesday will likely change the course of his presidency permanently. And I know I’m not the only one, nervously asking myself, can he meet this moment?

Here’s why I think Biden is ready. The day after the coup, Biden held a press event to tout his Justice Department nominees. Biden’s remarks from that event make a few things clear:

  • Biden calls those involved “domestic terrorists” and insurrectionists. He makes clear that there’s no space to consider their actions as protest.

  • Biden lays the blame right at President Trump’s feet, outlining how Trump’s corruption, failures, and actions led to this current moment we find ourselves in. Biden puts the blame for the coup, squarely on Donald Trump’s shoulders.

  • Biden points out that the reason the Department of Justice was “formed in 1870 was to enforce the Civil Rights Amendments that grew out of the Civil War — the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. To stand up to the Klan. To take on domestic terrorism.” He indicated his Administration’s Justice Department will follow those same principles.

  • Finally, Biden emphasizes that under his Administration the Justice Department will be independent again saying, “You don’t work for me. Your loyalty isn’t to me. It is to the law. To the Constitution. To the people of this nation. To guarantee justice.”

Today, Biden went even further saying that it was critical that the “folks who engaged in sedition.” be held accountable. Note the use of the word “sedition.” 

Joe Biden will continue to emphasize unity and Americans coming together. It’s a message that’s served him well, and admittedly one that most Americans probably want to hear right now. But I’m confident that Biden’s version of unity doesn’t involve sweeping what happened under the rug. Biden had made his views on the situation at hand clear: who the terrorists are, that they committed sedition, who enabled them, and that his Justice Department will be both independent and carry the torch of its founding mission. I believe Biden’s vision of Americans coming together involves truth and reconciliation, not allowing terrorists to take up space in our politics, and justice for those harmed by Trump and his band of insurrectionists. I believe Joe Biden can meet this moment and am hopeful that he will.

We can’t move forward from what happened until we address the institutions and individuals who brought us to this place, and demand restitution for what they’ve taken from us. 

In my own newsletter this week, I offered a roadmap for accountability, a list of enablers, and how we can and should hold them responsible. The Biden Administration has a huge role to play in how America responds to an attempted coup against our nation. I’m counting on them to lead the way, and if he falls short I’m counting on the rest of us to remind him what his priorities must be. 

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Driving the Conversation 

Several police departments across the country have opened investigations into cops among their ranks to find out if they were involved in the siege on the U.S. Capitol on Washington, D.C. on January 6th.

The growing number of probes follows an announcement from the Seattle Police Department on Friday that two of its officers have been put on administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations that they were in the nation’s capital during the raucous events.

Alone in the Capitol’s marble halls, just outside the chamber’s bronze doors, it was suddenly apparent that the citadel of U.S. democracy was falling to the mob incited by President Trump.

A cacophony of screaming, shouting and banging echoed from the floor below. McConnell’s security detail rushed past and into the chamber. The adviser began walking toward the Rotunda and came face to face with a U.S. Capitol Police officer sprinting in the opposite direction. The two made eye contact and the officer forced out a single word: “Run!”

The first glimpse of the deadly tragedy that was about to unfold came at 9 a.m. on the morning of the insurrection for one Black veteran of the US Capitol Police. But it didn’t come from his superiors — instead the officer had to rely on a screenshot from Instagram sent to him by a friend.

“I found out what they were planning when a friend of mine screenshot me an Instagram story from the Proud Boys saying, ‘We’re breaching the Capitol today, guys. I hope y’all ready.’” The officer, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from his superiors, told BuzzFeed News that it was just a sign of the chaos that was to come, which saw officers regularly finding themselves unprepared and then outmanned and overpowered by the mob.

In December 1972, not long after winning a U.S. Senate seat from one of Delaware’s oldest political hands, Joe Biden began traveling to Washington to introduce himself around town.

Strapping and handsome, Biden had just turned 30, the minimum age to become a senator. Now, almost 50 years later, he is about to become the nation’s oldest president at 78. Back then, he was the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history, according to the Senate website.

Biden Hires and Appointments 

Ambassador William J. Burns as his Nominee for CIA Director

Ambassador William J. Burns is the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the oldest international affairs think tank in the United States. He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 after a 33-year diplomatic career. He holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, career ambassador, and is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become Deputy Secretary of State.

Ambassador Burns is a crisis-tested public servant who has spent his career working to keep Americans safe and secure. Prior to his tenure as Deputy Secretary of State, he served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2008 to 2011, U.S. Ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 2001 to 2005, and U.S. Ambassador to Jordan from 1998 to 2001. He was also executive secretary of the State Department and special assistant to former Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright; minister-counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Moscow; acting director and principal deputy director of the State Department’s policy planning staff; and special assistant to the president and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council.

Ambassador Burns has received three Presidential Distinguished Service Awards and the highest civilian honors from the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from LaSalle University and master’s and doctoral degrees in international relations from Oxford University, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar.

Additional Members of the Office of the White House Counsel

  • Samiyyah Ali, Deputy Associate Counsel

  • Funmi Olorunnipa Badejo, Associate Counsel

  • Tona Boyd, Special Counsel

  • Megan Ceronsky, Associate Counsel

  • Martine Cicconi, Associate Counsel

  • Ashley Deeks, Associate Counsel and Deputy Legal Advisor to the National Security Council

  • Justin Dews, Deputy Associate Counsel

  • Neha Gupta, Associate Counsel

  • Paige Herwig, Senior Counsel

  • Janet Kim, Associate Counsel

  • Ephraim McDowell, Deputy Associate Counsel

  • Jaimie McFarlin, Deputy Associate Counsel

  • Caroline McKay, Chief of Staff to the White House Counsel and Deputy Associate Counsel

  • Lauren Moore, Associate Counsel

  • Michael Posada, Associate Counsel

  • Maury Riggan, Associate Counsel

  • Larry Schwartzol,  Associate Counsel

  • Reema Shah, Deputy Associate Counsel

  • Jennifer Sokoler, Associate Counsel

  • Erica Songer, Associate Counsel

Your Moment of Jellyfish

Thank you for reading and for sticking with the newsletter. I know it’s been a tough week and I urge you to take care of yourself and connect with your friends and loved ones. (This is as much of a reminder to myself as it is to you. I’ve been doomscrolling far too much!) 

If you need some content to zone out to, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has got you. Take a few moments to enjoy their Live Jelly Cam. It looks gorgeous on full screen as well.

American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the Presidential transition period from November 3rd, 2020 to January 21st, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Got questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.

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