Speaking in Charlotte, on Wednesday, Biden focused on the economic vulnerability of African Americans, outlining his previous proposals for racial equity while pledging to elevate the Civil Rights Division if he is elected.
At what was billed as a “Black Economic Summit,” he addressed the growing racial unrest around the country and the potential to spur change in public policy.
“Average people have gone, ‘My lord, holy mackerel. I didn’t know it was this bad,’” Biden said.
During his remarks, a grand jury in Jefferson County, Ky., indicted a former police officer on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid in March. Biden did not mention the case directly.
Biden talked about infusing more money into historically Black colleges and universities, and touted a plan that would allow anyone from a family making less than $125,000 to go to a public college for free.
At one point, he stopped and said he kept a list of his major funding proposals and how he’d pay for them, pulling a notecard out of his pocket. He argued for tax code changes that would raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy — but he also tried to make clear he wasn’t going as far, politically or rhetorically, as his former Democratic primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“You think I’m making it like, you know … Bernie Sanders, ‘Billionaires are bad.’ That’s not the problem,” Biden said, casting his proposal as a more modest increase in the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans to 39.4 percent. “I’m not trying to punish anybody. It’s time everybody pay their fair share.”
At the end, Biden said he would allow one more question, saying with a laugh, “I could really do yes or no if you ask me an easy question.” The question was about how the Department of Justice would operate differently under him.
“This has been the most corrupt administration to modern American history,” Biden said. “The Justice Department’s turned into the president’s private law firm.”
On cases and prosecutions, Biden said, “the Justice Department will be totally independent of me.” But he said that the Civil Rights division would be elevated and would have “a direct office within the White House.”
“I’d make sure there’s a combination of the Civil Rights Division having more direct authority inside the Justice Department and be able to investigate, than in fact it has now,” Biden said.
“But I get asked the following question, ‘If in fact you get elected, would you prosecute Trump?’” Biden added. “The answer is I’m not going to pursue prosecuting anybody. I’m going to do what the Justice Department says should be done.”