White House press secretary Jen Psaki blasted Republican supporters of former President Donald Trump as “lemmings” Thursday when asked if President Biden was doing enough “to unify the country” after slamming his predecessor on the anniversary of the Capitol riot.
Psaki specifically lashed out at members of the GOP who she said had not repudiated Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him.
Kristen Welker of NBC News noted to Psaki at a White House briefing that “most of the people who attended these ceremonies today [at the Capitol] were Democrats.”
“We do have this pushback from the former president and from some of his supporters, and polls show that there are still a number of Republicans who believe that the election was stolen from the former president,” Welker said. “Does President Biden feel as though he’s done enough to unify the country and what more does he need to do given the sharp divides that we still see on display today?”
Psaki replied that “we’re talking about some Republicans in Congress, not all — many, far too many — who in our view, in the president’s view, need to take a look at themselves and think about what role they want to play in the history books when their children and grandchildren look at the history books.”
“Do they want to be perpetuating the big lie? Do they want to be walking like silent lemmings behind the former president who fomented an insurrection?” Psaki asked. “Or do they want to be part of saving our democracy? So the question really should be directed at them.”
Psaki used the incendiary language shortly after just one House Republican — Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — chose to attend a moment of silence in the chamber following Biden’s speech. Cheney was joined by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Many Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), slammed Trump immediately after last year’s violence, but have since accused Democrats of trying to exploit the riot for political gain.
McConnell has taken particular aim at Democrats’ push to pass federal election reforms, which he calls an unconstitutional power grab to override state laws that restrict mail-in voting, among other changes.
“It is beyond distasteful for some of our colleagues to ham-fistedly invoke the Jan. 6 anniversary to advance these aims,” McConnell said Wednesday. “Washington Democrats have been trying to seize control over elections for years. The first draft of the legislation at hand was introduced in January 2019.”
”This is their Christmas,” Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday of Democrats. “They are going to take this and milk this for anything they can to be able to smear anyone who ever supported Donald Trump.”
Biden gave a strident rebuke of Trump in his Thursday morning remarks.
“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed,” the president said.
“Patriots? Not in my view,” he went on. “You can’t love your country only when you win. You can’t obey the law only when it is convenient. You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.”