Former President Barack Obama says President Donald Trump is "a symptom, not a cause" of what's dividing the country.
Obama's Friday speech kicked off his move back into the political fray - the former president is planning campaign events with candidates in California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and IL this month, as this year's midterm elections heat up.
In his IL speech on Friday, Obama will revisit themes he has expounded on in the past, including that "America is at its best when our democracy is inclusive and our citizens are engaged", and that "this moment in our country is too perilous for Democratic voters to sit out", said spokeswoman Katie Hill.
"It should not be a partisan issue to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use the criminal justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents, or to explicitly call on the attorney general to protect members of our own party from prosecution because an election happens to be coming up".
"Just a glance at recent headlines should tell you this moment really is different, the stakes really are higher, the consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire", he said.
He later added: "This is not normal".
In a nod to the turbulence of the past week - which saw allegations of a secret "resistance" working inside the White House - the 57-year-old Obama poured scorn on the idea that "everything will turn out okay" because some of Trump's staff are secretly ignoring the boss's orders.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers said Friday that Obama's campaign events will help Republicans.
"Out of this political darkness I am seeing a great awakening of citizenship all across the country", Obama said.
But he dropped that political reticence in IL, the state where he launched his own political career, saying a vote against Republicans could restore "honesty and decency and lawfulness" to government.
Obama's speech at the University of IL at Urbana-Champaign was delivered less than two months before midterm elections that could determine the course of Trump's presidency.
"I'm sorry, I watched it, but I fell asleep", he said at a campaign appearance in Fargo, North Dakota.
"What's gonna fix our democracy is you", he said. "I found he's very good - very good for sleeping", he said. In 2009, the Obama White House claimed that Fox was "not a news organization" and instead "a wing of the Republican Party".
Obama argued that, "We are supposed to stand up to discrimination and we are sure as heck to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers".
The hugely popular former first lady Michelle Obama will also be bringing star power to Democratic races in Las Vegas and Miami late this month.
His advisers say it's a preview of the case he'll make throughout the fall campaign season.
Obama's remarks to an auditorium of college students in IL - the state he represented before he won the White House - marked the opening salvo in a series of campaign stops aimed at boosting fellow Democrats in November's midterm elections, when voters will elect much of Congress and 36 state governorships.
Obama will head to Cleveland on September 13 to campaign for Ohio Democratic gubernatorial nominee Richard Cordray.
Obama blamed the GOP for unwinding campaign finance laws, attacking voting rights, handing out tax cuts without regard to deficits, casting votes to deprive people of their health insurance, rejecting science and undermining alliances.
"I complained plenty about Fox News, but you never heard me threaten to shut them down, or call them 'enemies of the people, '" the former president said during a rare speech on Friday.