Joe Biden cast Republicans as a threat to the rule of law in a scorching speech calling out “sickening” attacks on the FBI following its raid of Mar-a-Lago.
The US president inverted Republican attack lines to accuse the GOP of being soft on crime as he highlighted his efforts to reduce gun violence in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
Mr Biden said: “To this day, MAGA Republicans in Congress defend the [pro-Trump] mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6 ”.
He added: “You can be on the side of the mob, or the side of the police. You can’t be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection.”
The trip to Wilkes-Barre, a city in northeastern Pennsylvania, is part of Mr Biden’s attempt to address a key concern for voters in a state which will be critical to Democrats’ hopes to hold the US Senate.
Polls show the Republican Party scoring much higher than Democrats when it comes to tackling crime as the country grapples with a rising murder rate.
Republicans in Congress have portrayed themselves as the party of law enforcement while tying Democrats to left-wing movements to defund police departments.
But this messaging has been complicated by the FBI search of Mr Trump’s Florida home over his handling of classified documents, after some Trump acolytes responded by calling for the agency to be defunded.
Mr Biden offered an aggressive response to those Republican Party members on Tuesday night.
“It’s sickening to see the new attacks on the FBI,” he told the crowd at Wilkes University.
Biden strikes robust new tone before midterms
While castigating Republicans who have criticised the FBI, Mr Biden also once again distanced himself from the progressive wing of his party, saying: “I’m opposed to defunding the police, I’m also opposed to defunding the FBI.
He added: “There is no place in this country, no place, for endangering the lives of law enforcement. No place. None, never, period.”
It is the first time that Mr Biden has personally waded into the row over the FBI’s investigation of Mr Trump, a politically fraught issue for the president.
The pushback is part of an increasingly robust line of attack by Mr Biden as his approval rating creeps up and Democrats see reasons for optimism in the final 10 weeks of the midterm election cycle.
Last week, Mr Biden cast Mr Trump’s “MAGA” base as violently anti-democratic and turning towards “semi-fascism”.
He will continue that theme on Thursday, with a national address outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.
Pledge to ban assault weapons
The prime-time address from America’s birthplace will focus on the “continued battle for the soul of the nation” as Mr Biden argues the country’s democratic values are at stake.
In his speech on Tuesday night, Mr Biden touted his party’s biggest achievements on tackling crime, including passing the most significant gun safety law in 30 years.
“We beat the NRA,” he said, referencing the powerful lobbying group the National Rifle Association. The crowd cheered in response.
“But we are not stopping here” he added, saying he was “determined to ban assault weapons”, a move which a majority of Americans support.
Mr Biden’s remarks also highlighted his proposal to put 100,000 more police on the streets as part of a $37 billion investment in crime prevention.
Residents of Wilkes-Barre will get another high-profile visit this week. Mr Trump plans to hold a rally in the city on Saturday for the Republican candidate Dr Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s Senate race.
As well as being critical to whether Democrats hold their razor-thin majority in the US Senate, Pennsylvania is a potential bellwether for the 2024 presidential election.
Mr Biden will make a third visit to the battleground state in a week with a visit to Pittsburgh on Monday.
Mr Biden appeared to make yet another verbal slip as he campaigned for Democratic candidates in the state on Tuesday night, mixing up the candidate for governor Josh Shapiro with the Senate candidate John Fetterman.