Joe Biden gave a surprise interview to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Thursday, just hours before Donald Trump accepts the Republican presidential nomination and likely will try to characterize his Democratic rival as soft on the issue of law and order.
In the interview, Biden attacked Trump for viewing the violence in Kenosha through a political lens. He also responded to Vice President Mike Pence’s criticism in his speech on Wednesday, in which he said that “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
Trump “views this as a political benefit to him,” Biden said. “He is rooting for more violence, not less.”
As he did in a video posted on Wednesday, Biden supported peaceful protests but condemned the violence that has erupted during the unrest.
“The thing that bothers me the most is the idea of just pouring gasoline on the racial flames that are burning now,” Biden said. “That does not justify any of the looting, any of the burning, any of the damage being done by protesters. But people have a right to be angry.”
He also compared the Obama administration’s response to urban unrest to that of the Trump administration.
“When they occurred, we didn’t have to call in the National Guard,” Biden said. “We protected federal property without hurting people. We moved in a direction that made sense.”
There was little advance promotion of the interview on Andrea Mitchell Reports, and after it wrapped up Mitchell suggested it reflected concerns among Democrats over Trump’s law and order messaging during the convention this week. “I think they have to worry about the violence in Kenosha playing into the hands of the RNC,” Mitchell told Chuck Todd after the interview.
Biden told Mitchell that he would be open to visiting Wisconsin if it could be done safely.
Biden also said that he would debate Trump next month, reacting to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement earlier on Thursday that, if it were her, she would not do so. “I wouldn’t legitimize a conversation with” Trump, she told reporters.
Biden, though, said that he has agreed to participate in the three debates scheduled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, with the first one scheduled on Sept. 29. “I’m going to be a fact-checker on the floor,” Biden said.
Biden’s “prebuttal” to Trump’s remarks is part of a campaign plan to counter message on the Republican convention’s final night. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, will give a speech in Washington later on Thursday about the COVID-19 crisis.
Biden’s campaign plans to run a two-minute ad on Thursday evening ahead of convention programming and this weekend in battleground states like Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The ad, “Keep Up,” plays like a shortened version of Biden’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last week, but it also features a brief comparison on physical agility. It features a shot of Biden running and Trump getting assistance to get down a ramp after a speech he gave at West Point in June.