President Trump and Joe Biden sparred over the characterization of far-right and far-left groups during the first general election debate between the two candidates.
During the exchange Tuesday night, Biden cited Trump’s own FBI director, with whom the president has publicly disagreed, to make his case that the far-left antifa is more of a bogeyman to the Right rather than an organized threat to society.
Moderator Chris Wallace pointed out how Trump has attacked Biden for not condemning antifa and asked if the president would use the stage to condemn far-right militia groups and white supremacists, who have also provoked violence during the unrest in cities across the country this summer.
“Sure, I’m willing to do that,” Trump responded.
“Go ahead then,” Wallace said.
“I would say almost everything I see is from the left-wing. Not from the right-wing. I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace,” Trump said.
“Say it. Do it, say it,” Biden interjected.
“Do you want to call them — what do you want to call them? Give me a name,” Trump asked the moderator. “Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, somebody has got to do something about antifa and the Left because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing problem.”
“Antifa is an idea, not an organization,” Biden responded.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Trump said.
“That’s what his FBI director said,” Biden asserted.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers earlier this month that antifa was a “real thing” and the FBI has worked to investigate left-wing anarchists associated with the cause, but he also said, “It’s not a group or an organization. It’s a movement or an ideology.” Trump, who has tweeted that he wanted to designate antifa as a terrorist organization, has condemned Wray’s assessment.
“Antifa is not an idea. Antifa is bad. … Antifa is a dangerous, radical group,” Trump said during Tuesday’s debate.
Other Democrats, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, have pushed back on claims that antifa is behind violence in major U.S. cities. Nadler said in July that antifa violence in Portland, Oregon, was a “myth.”
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