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Biden provides an era-defining interview to ProPublica

In the wide-ranging interview, the president spoke of the threat Trump poses to democracy, as well as Alito’s claim that Congress can’t regulate the Supreme Court.


President Joe Biden’s interview with ProPublica last Friday was the kind of era-defining interview one can easily imagine as source material in a future history course (assuming history will still be allowed to be taught in the future). 

In the interview with journalist John Harwood, Biden broached everything from former President Donald Trump’s plans for the White House to ethics rules for the Supreme Court. It was a timely convo that came amid Trump’s violent rhetoric and just days before the high court kicked off its new session, which some understandably fear will be chock-full of right-wing rulings. 

And what we got was essentially a rapid-fire questioning of the president regarding a host of issues that feel like existential crises for the country. 

On political violence

Biden rejected Harwood’s suggestion that the threat to democracy might not be too serious, given the “orderly midterm elections, no violence” in 2022, along with the absence of civil unrest in response to Jan. 6-related charges for Trump and others. 

Harwood’s questioning appeared to ignore the gun-toting poll watchers reported in Arizona last fall, as well as the racist threats reportedly lobbed at federal Judge Tanya Chutkan and Atlanta-area prosecutor Fani Willis over Trump’s legal proceedings. Biden explained why Harwood missed the mark. 

“I think the opposite thing’s happened, John,” the president said of the threat to democracy. “I think that this is the last gasp, or maybe the first big gasp, of the MAGA Republicans, and I think Trump has concluded that he has to win. And they’ll pull out all the stops.”

On ethics and the Supreme Court

Asked whether he thinks the conservative-loaded Supreme Court will uphold the rule of law, Biden said that although the current court “has been one of the most extreme courts,” he still thinks the justices will sustain the “basic fundamentals of rule of law.” (I’m not nearly as confident.)

The president also pushed back against Justice Samuel Alito’s claim that Congress doesn’t have the authority to impose a code of ethics on the court. The right-wing justice made the claim following a raft of reports that he and Justice Clarence Thomas had engaged in questionable associations with rich benefactors.

Biden acknowledged the open debate over whether Congress can regulate the court, but said he thinks the answer is yes. 

“The idea that the Constitution would in any way prohibit or not encourage the court to have basic rules of ethics that are just, on their face, reasonable ... is just not the case,” he said. 

On a third-party challenge in 2024

I found Biden’s other remarks about democracy interesting, as well. 

For example, Biden openly stated his belief that having No Labels — a shadowy third party backed by former Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and a host of conservative-leaning benefactors — in the 2024 presidential race would benefit Trump

“It’s going to help the other guy. And he knows,” Biden said of Lieberman, his longtime colleague in the Senate. “So that’s a political decision he’s making that I obviously think is a mistake. But he has a right to do that.”

On media, misinformation and Musk

Biden said right-wing news outlets have helped amplify the threat to democracy — as has X under Elon Musk.

Asked whether Musk, who owns the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has contributed to the problem by undercutting the company’s previous efforts to combat misinformation, the president said he had no doubt. 

Said Biden: “Where do people get their news? They go on the internet, they go online. And you have no notion whether it’s true or not.”

On age and his re-election bid

In one of the most self-aware replies he gave, Biden pushed back after Harwood cited voter concerns about his age and asked the 80-year-old president: “Why are you the only Democrat who can protect democracy next year?”

“I’m not the only Democrat that can protect it,” Biden replied before alluding to Trump. “I just happen to be the Democrat who I think is best positioned to see to it that the guy I was worried about taking on democracy is not president.”

Check out the interview here: