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White House defends attacks on 'MAGA Republicans': 'They're trying to hide'

WASHINGTON — The White House defended its increasingly combative depictions of the Republican Party as remaining largely in the grip of former President Donald Trump and dangerously comfortable with extremism and violence.

“We understand that we hit a nerve. We get that. We understand they’re trying to hide,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday, just hours before Biden was slated to deliver a speech in Philadelphia on the state of American democracy.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at the daily briefing on Wednesday. (Win McNamee/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The president’s primetime address will directly target “MAGA Republicans,” according to White House officials, yet Jean-Pierre maintained that Biden’s remarks would nevertheless be “optimistic.” It is unclear just how he will reconcile his oft-stated belief in the American system of government with warnings about right-wing extremism.

"It’s not a speech about the former president or about a single politician or about a political party. It’s about the American democracy, ” Jean-Pierre said. “This is so much broader, so much bigger, than any one party and any one person.”

Conservatives have complained that the president’s bellicose new tone is only deepening existing fractures. “Biden has pitted neighbors against each other, labeled half of Americans as fascist and tarnished any idea of his promise of ‘unity,’” a Republican National Committee official told the New York Times.

Republican opposition to the Biden presidency has only hardened since the days when “Let’s go, Brandon” became a battle cry. Candidates who deny the roundly certified 2020 presidential election continue to gain sway in the Republican Party. And last month’s dramatic seizure of sensitive documents from Trump’s resort and residence at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., further stoked political passions, with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., predicting “riots in the streets” should the former president, a close ally of his, face federal prosecution.

Trump supporters
Trump supporters rally near the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on Aug. 14. (Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A senior administration official told Politico that the speech — which has been billed as an official presidential event, not a campaign stop — would serve as “a moment for him to speak to the people of this country about what’s at stake, what the threats are and what the possibilities are for the country to move together as a democratic nation.”

Biden has used Republican positions on guns and abortion to depict the GOP as thoroughly out of step with the American public. He has argued that conservatives would use the Supreme Court’s contentious decision in Dobbs, the abortion case that originated in Mississippi, to do away with other so-called unenumerated rights, such as same-sex marriage and access to contraception.

Democrats have also assailed Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s economic proposals, which they say would raise taxes and slash popular social programs. Republican leaders have distanced themselves from Scott’s plan, but because he heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the White House has argued that his ideas amount to a party platform.