Joe Biden accused President Donald Trump on Thursday of "rooting for more violence" in cities where protests over police brutality and racism have boiled over.
Biden made his comments in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, hours before Trump's formally accepts the GOP presidential nomination on the last night of the Republican National Convention. They marked some of his most heated criticisms yet against Trump's handling of the racial crisis that has gripped the nation since the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day.
"He views this as a political benefit to him," Biden said when asked about demonstrations in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that sprang up following the police shooting of Jacob Blake over the weekend.
"He's rooting for more violence, not less," Biden said.
When pressed on the accusation, Biden quoted Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway, who said in a Fox News interview that "the more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who's best on public safety and law and order."
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh responded in a statement to CNBC that Biden's "desperation is showing," adding that Trump has "repeatedly condemned the violence erupting in Democrat-led cities."
"This is election is a choice between President Trump's strong stance with law and order and Joe Biden's acquiescence to the anti-police left and siding with rioters," Murtaugh said.
The White House declined to comment on Biden's remarks.
Video footage of Sunday's police shooting of Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, sparked another wave of outrage toward law enforcement. Protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, gave way to clashes between demonstrators and police.
Armed vigilante groups were also present at the demonstrations. One person was arrested Wednesday and is facing homicide charges after allegedly shooting three people, killing two, on Tuesday night, NBC News reported.
Trump and his supporters have focused intently on the violence throughout the Republican National Convention this week, lumping Democrats in with "anarchists" and "rioters" seen at some events. Trump will reportedly blast Biden as "extreme" when he delivers his keynote speech at the White House on Thursday night.
Biden, who accepted his party's presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention last week, laid blame for much of the strife squarely at the feet of the president, striking back at criticisms launched Wednesday night by Vice President Mike Pence, who said told the GOP convention that Americans "won't be safe" under a Biden administration.
"The problem we have now is, we're in Donald Trump's America," Biden responded. He accused Trump of "pouring gasoline on the fire," citing the president's 2017 remarks that there were "very fine people on both sides" of a White supremacist protest in Charlottesville in which a counterprotester was killed.
"You know, as I said after George Floyd's murder, protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary. But burning down communities is not protest, it's needless violence," Biden said in a video posted to social media.
Trump has called for the federal government to intervene in Kenosha to clamp down on the unrest but has not tweeted or commented publicly about Blake's shooting.