President Biden marked the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol with a scathing speech in which he strongly condemned the violence and said his predecessor, Donald Trump, “has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.”
Speaking from Statuary Hall just outside the House chamber, Biden said that “for the first time time in our history, a president not just lost the election, he tried to prevent a peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.”
“We must make sure that never happens again.”
Biden never uttered Trump’s name in his speech, but he referred repeatedly to the former president with forceful, and at times personal, denunciations of his actions. Trump, Biden said, “values power over principle.” His “bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy,” the president continued, adding, “He can’t accept that he lost.”
“He’s not just a former president,” Biden said of Trump. “He’s a defeated former president.”
He said Trump sat in the White House “watching it all on television and doing nothing” as police were assaulted and “the nation’s Capitol was under siege.”
Biden said the U.S. is in “a battle for the soul of America.”
“I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either,” he said. “I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation. And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.”
Speaking to reporters later, Biden said he wanted to “face the truth” in his speech in order to heal.
“You can’t pretend. This is serious stuff.” Biden said “You’ve got to face it. That’s what great nations do. They face the truth, deal with it and move on.”
Trump responded to Biden with a response charging that Democrats “want to own this day of Jan. 6 so they can stoke fears and divide America. I say, let them have it because America sees through theirs lies and polarizations.”
Harris marked the day in a speech before Biden
Vice President Harris said the “American spirit is being tested.”
“The answer to whether we will meet that test resides where it has always resided in our country, with you, the people,” she said.
Harris said “the work ahead will not be easy” and called on the Senate to pass voting rights legislation — an unlikely prospect unless the Senate changes its rules to prevent a Republican-led filibuster.
“We cannot sit on the sidelines,” Harris said. “We must unite in defense of our democracy.”
While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Jan. 6, 2021, “a dark day for our country,” he accused Democrats of trying to “exploit this anniversary to advance partisan policy goals that long predated this event.”
He added: “It is especially jaw-dropping to hear some Senate Democrats invoke the mob’s attempt to disrupt our country’s norms, rules and institutions as a justification to discard our norms, rules, and institutions themselves.”
There’s a day of events planned at the Capitol
Democratic lawmakers have planned a daylong series of events at the Capitol to mark the anniversary, ranging from a moment of silence on the House floor at noon ET to a conversation with historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jon Meacham, moderated by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden at 1 p.m. ET. The purpose is “to establish and preserve the narrative” of Jan. 6, according to a statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
There will also be a prayer vigil on the Capitol steps led by Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at 5:30 p.m. ET. Lawmakers will also have the opportunity to share their reflections of the day.
The day’s events, Pelosi said, “are intended as an observance of reflection, remembrance and recommitment, in a spirit of unity, patriotism and prayerfulness.”