President Joe Biden accused Donald Trump and his followers of holding a “dagger at the neck of democracy” with electoral falsehoods that triggered last year’s fatal attack on the United States Capitol, using the anniversary of the incident to warn that America’s system of governance is still under threat.
On a day of remembrance marked by fiery speeches, moments of silence, and anguished accounts from lawmakers, the president set the tone, recalling the terrifying hours of Jan. 6, 2021, when the Trump mob laid siege to the Capitol and rioters attempted to prevent the routine, ceremonial certification of election results.
In what some anticipated would be a day of healing, nearly no Republicans joined Biden and the Democrats. Instead, it was a stark reminder of a society ripped apart by the lies that sparked the riot, their unresolved aftermath, and Trump’s continued hold over a big portion of the country.
“For the first time in our country’s history, a president not only lost an election, but also attempted to obstruct the peaceful transition of power while a violent mob stormed the Capitol,” Biden said. “You can’t only love your nation while you’re winning.”
Biden’s criticism of the vanquished president was laced with outrage for the assault, which has radically altered Congress and the country, as well as raising worldwide fears about the future of American democracy.
The president, with his voice booming at times and reverberating in the ornate Statuary Hall where rioters had laid siege, urged Americans to remember what they had seen with their own eyes on Jan. 6: a mob attacking police and breaking windows, a Confederate flag inside the Capitol, and gallows erected outside amid calls to hang the vice president — all while Trump sat at the White House watching TV.
“The followers of the former president are attempting to rewrite history,” Biden stated, puzzled. “They want you to think of Election Day as a day of revolt, and the riot on January 6 as a real manifestation of the people’s will.” Is there any other way to look at this country, at America, than this? “I’m afraid I can’t.”
Biden had only referenced the incident rarely before the anniversary, but he spoke out forcefully on Thursday, combining his message with a demand for voting rights legislation that Democrats have long pushed for.
The president’s statements contrasted sharply with the misleading narratives that continue to circulate about the Capitol assault, notably many Republicans’ unwillingness to acknowledge that Biden won the 2020 election. The Capitol siege and its aftermath claimed the lives of five individuals.
Biden stated, “We must be crystal clear about what is true and what is a falsehood.” “A web of misinformation regarding the 2020 election has been spread by the previous president of the United States of America.”
Even as the president spoke, the defeated Trump showed no indications of relinquishing control, highlighting the country’s divisions as seen by the quiet and absence of most Republicans from the Capitol.
Trump resurrected his baseless assault on the elections from Florida. When he exhorted his fans to “fight like hell,” he took no responsibility for sending thousands of supporters to the Capitol that day. He was putting out a fundraising appeal by Thursday evening.
Even among congressional Republicans who denounced the attack in the days following it, few do so now, with some even supporting Trump’s misleading depictions.
“What brazen politicization of January 6 by President Biden,” tweeted South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump loyalist who had previously suggested he had abandoned Trump during the incident only to swiftly embrace him again.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who had previously stated that Trump was “practically and ethically” responsible for the assault, released a statement emphasizing the severity of the day while also claiming that certain Democrats were attempting to use it for political gain. He was not in Washington because he was in Georgia for the funeral of former colleague Sen. Johnny Isakson.
“The threat persists,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, deputy head of the House committee investigating the incident and one of the few Republican members present at the Capitol ceremony. “Trump keeps making the same statements that he knows sparked bloodshed on January 6,” she remarked.
“Unfortunately, too many in my own party are endorsing the former president, turning a blind eye to the risk, or downplaying it,” she said on NBC’s “Today” show. “This is how democracies perish.” That is something we just cannot allow to happen.”
Her father, former Vice President and current Republican Party elder Dick Cheney, was also present. They were the only members of the GOP on the House floor for a minute of silence.
“I am very disappointed in the lack of many members of my party to grasp the severe nature of the January 6 assaults and the ongoing threat to our nation,” Dick Cheney said in a statement after being received by numerous Democrats.
As the siege lasted for hours on Thursday, politicians related their stories of being stuck in the House or hustled out from the Senate. Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan had in his pocket a shard of glass from one of the Capitol’s damaged windows.
He choked out, “January 6 is not over.” “The menace, as well as the illusion that inspires it, continues to loom.” He stated, “We need truth to properly safeguard our democracy.”
The House subcommittee examining the insurgency wants to spend the next few months holding public hearings to learn more about what transpired.
Some members of Biden’s party have chastised him and his administration for failing to adequately explain why they believe democracy is in jeopardy or for failing to press Congress hard enough to pass election and voting rights legislation, which is stalled in the Senate due to a Republican filibuster.
On the occasion, former President Barack Obama stated that “nothing is more vital” than safeguarding the right to vote.
In a statement, Obama added, “Our democracy is in greater jeopardy today than it was then.”
Biden’s speech, as well as that of Vice President Kamala Harris, who is in charge of the administration’s voting and elections legislation, looked to be a direct reaction to critics.
In her speech, Harris stated, “We must pass voting rights measures.” “We can’t afford to be on the sidelines.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi relied on history in the hopes that Americans will reconcile their differences by appealing to their “better angels.” On the Capitol steps, lawmakers held a vigil in the evening.
There were few other commemorations — or demonstrations — held around the country.
Biden’s blunt message and the Republicans’ aversion to it come as legislators acclimatize to the new normal on Capitol Hill: rising tensions that many fear may lead to greater bloodshed or, one day, the overturning of a lawful election.
According to a recent study conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, three out of ten Republicans believe the attack was nonviolent. Around two-thirds of Americans, including nearly all Democrats, classified the day as very or extremely violent.
The number of Americans who blame Trump for the violence has increased somewhat over the last year, with 57 percent believing he has major responsibility, up from 50% in the days following the incident.
The courts have dismissed Trump’s accusations of widespread election fraud, and his own Justice Department has denied them.
In the six key states contested by Trump, the Associated Press uncovered less than 475 incidences of voter fraud out of 25.5 million ballots cast, a small figure in percentage terms.