Biden condemns Trump as a threat to democracy in speech marking one year since January 6 attack

Biden vowed to defend the nation’s founding ideals from the threats posed by the violent mob that stormed the Capitol a year ago and the prevailing lies that Trump and his allies continue to repeat about the 2020 election. A spirited Biden delivered one of the speeches most passionate about his still young presidency as he recalls critical moments in the nation’s past, presenting the assault as a living symbol of the turning point in American history that he so often speaks of.

“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election. He tried to avoid the peaceful transfer of power when a violent mob arrived at the Capitol,” Biden said in a speech from the United States Capitol that lasted just under 30 years. minutes. “But they failed. They failed. And on this day of remembrance, we must ensure that such an attack never, ever happens again.”

In a direct shot at Trump, Biden added: “His bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution, he cannot accept that he lost.”

Biden has generally avoided speaking directly about his predecessor since taking office, deliberately not saying his name Thursday, instead making more than a dozen references to the “former president.”

However, the president’s scorching speech confronted Trump’s electoral lies and post-presidential behavior, accusing him of spreading falsehoods about the 2020 elections, refusing to accept defeat, and holding him accountable for inciting a violent mob of his supporters to assault. the US Capitol

“A former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 elections. He did so because he values ​​power over principle, because he considers that his own interests are more important than the interests of his country and America’s interests, “Biden said.

Biden re-emphasized the central message of his 2020 presidential campaign and the reason he ran against Trump: “We are in a battle for the soul of America.”

The president warned that democracy and the “promise of the United States” are at risk and called on the American public to “defend the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy.”

He called for protecting voting rights across the country and criticized Trump and his supporters for trying to “suppress your vote and subvert our elections.”

“He’s wrong. He’s undemocratic. And frankly, he’s not American,” Biden said.

His comments come as Democrats are making renewed push to get two voting rights bills, the John Lewis Voting Rights Promotion Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, passed in the Senate. The two laws were introduced in response to Republicans enacting laws across the country that make it difficult for people to vote after a record turnout in the 2020 election. Virtually all Republicans in Congress oppose the legislation and are not clear if Democrats will be able to pass the bills.

“Now let’s step forward, let’s write the next chapter in American history, because January 6 marks not the end of democracy, but the beginning of a renaissance of freedom and fair play,” Biden said.

After his speech, Biden defended himself from calling Trump so bluntly when asked by a journalist if he believed that going after the former president “would divide more than it heals.”

The president replied, “The way you have to heal, you have to recognize the extent of the wound. You cannot pretend. This is serious.”

“You have to face it. That’s what great nations do. They face the truth, they face it and they move on,” Biden said.

A day of remembrance

The events of January 6, 2021 led to Trump’s second impeachment trial by the House of Representatives. The insurrection launched the largest investigation in FBI history, with 700 people arrested and hundreds of criminals still at large. And a select committee of the House continues to investigate the events that led to the riots. Two Trump allies, Mark Meadows and Steve Bannon, have been charged with criminal contempt for refusing to cooperate with the committee’s investigators after being subpoenaed.

On Capitol Hill, a series of events hosted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will follow Biden’s speech to mark the January 6 anniversary, including a moment of silence on the House floor. and legislators’ testimonies about the heartbreaking attack.

The events of the insurrection took place just two weeks before Biden’s inauguration, casting a shadow over the new president’s administration. And despite the large number of dismissed court cases, failed state election audits, and countless discredited conspiracy claims, many Trump supporters have continued to doubt the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency.

In his remarks, Biden said he did not ask to be president at a time when America’s founding principles were under attack, but he was ready for the fight.

“I will stand in this gap. I will defend this nation. And I will not allow anyone to put a dagger to the neck of democracy,” Biden said.

The president also praised the police officers who opposed the attack for defending the nation’s way of life.

“Today a year ago, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked, simply attacked. The will of the people was attacked, the Constitution, our Constitution, faced the gravest of threats. Outnumbered in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the DC Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law. Our democracy stood. We the people resist. We the people prevail.

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to Biden and said: “On January 6, we all saw what our nation would be like if the forces that seek to dismantle our democracy are successful: anarchy, violence, chaos.”

“When I meet with young people, they often ask me about the state of our democracy. About January 6. What I tell them is: January 6 reflects the dual nature of democracy. Its fragility and its strength,” Harris added. “You see, the strength of democracy is the rule of law.”

While Trump was expected to hold a press conference scheduled for the anniversary of the insurrection, it was abruptly canceled. The Allies had warned that he would cause unnecessary trouble for the Republicans and himself.

In lieu of his press conference on Thursday, Trump is expected to voice his grievances at a campaign-style rally in Arizona next week.

Legislators and historians to commemorate anniversary

In late December, Pelosi announced a series of events on Capitol Hill to mark the passage of a year since the deadly attack.

In a letter to Democrats, Pelosi wrote that the events “are intended to be an observance of reflection, remembrance and new commitment, in a spirit of unity, patriotism and prayer.”

At noon, there will be a prayer and a moment of silence on the Chamber floor. This will be followed by a moderated conversation with historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jon Meacham. Pelosi’s letter said the discussion will serve “to establish and preserve the narrative of January 6.”

Later, legislators will have time to provide testimonies to “share their reflections of the day.” Colorado Democratic Rep. Jason Crow will chair the testimonies. Crow was one of the legislators trapped inside the house chamber during the attack and was photographed bending over to help a colleague who appeared to be in danger.
“Trauma, any trauma, impacts everyone,” Crow, a former army ranger, told CNN shortly after the attack. “No one is immune to it and everyone responds differently.”

Later, a prayer vigil will be held on the central steps of the Capitol where House and Senate legislators can participate.

While Congressional Democrats have organized a full day of events to draw attention to what happened during the insurrection, Congressional Republicans, by contrast, have seemed reluctant to talk much about it and especially reluctant to address the role of Trump.

In a letter to House Republicans at the start of the new year, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy briefly mentioned the January 6 anniversary, but did not include any mention of the former president.

“The actions that day were illegal and as wrong as they were wrong. Our Capitol must never be compromised and those who violated the law deserve to face legal repercussions and full responsibility,” he wrote.

McCarthy then went on to criticize the Democrats.

“Unfortunately, a year later, the Majority Party doesn’t seem any closer to answering the central question of how the Capitol was so caught off guard and what needs to be done to ensure it never happens again. Instead, they are using it as a partisan political weapon to further divide our country, “he said.

Republican leaders will not be on Capitol Hill Thursday with the House out of session and several Republican senators are heading to Georgia to attend a memorial service for the late Senator Johnny Isakson.

CNN’s Phil Mattingly, Melanie Zanona, Jeremy Diamond, and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.

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