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Biden attacks Trump, saying his wing of the Republican party is a threat to democracy

President Joe Biden speaks outside Independence Hall on Sept. 1, in Philadelphia.
Evan Vucci
President Joe Biden speaks outside Independence Hall on Sept. 1, in Philadelphia.

Updated September 1, 2022 at 8:59 PM ET

President Biden on Thursday warned Americans that democracy is under attack by a faction of the Republican party led by former President Donald Trump, and called on Democrats, mainstream Republicans and independents to "speak up, speak out, get engaged — vote, vote vote."

In a rare prime time speech just two months ahead of midterm congressional elections, where Democrats are fighting to keep their slim majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, Biden attacked his predecessor, saying that "too much of what's happening in the country isn't normal."

"Here, in my view, is what is true. MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution," Biden said, speaking outside Independence National Historical Park in downtown Philadelphia. "They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people."

The White House claimed it was not a political speech, but he launched multiple political broadsides against Trump and his supporters. He called them "MAGA Republicans" — referring to the 'Make America Great Again' slogan used by the former president.

"Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic," he said.

Biden sought to make clear that he was not criticizing all Republicans, calling on mainstream Republicans to reject that wing of their party.

"We are not powerless in the face of these threats. We are not bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy," he said. "There are far more Americans, far more Americans from every background and belief who reject the extreme MAGA ideology than those that accept it. "

Speaking ahead of the address, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy called on Biden to apologize.

"President Biden has chosen to divide, demean, and disparage his fellow Americans — why? Simply because they disagree with his policies," McCarthy said in his own speech from Pennsylvania. "That is not leadership."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.