WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden on Thursday strongly denounced Donald Trump’s election “big lie” that sparked fatal violations of the Capitol by his supporters and continues to inspire deep national division. He marked the anniversary of the rebellion by declaring to stand up and fight for the “soul of America.”
Biden was criticized for a “defeated president”, whom he blamed for an attack that has fundamentally changed Congress and raised global concerns about the future of American democracy.
“For the first time in our history, a president not only lost an election, he tried to prevent a peaceful transfer of power as violent mobs ransacked the Capitol,” Biden said. “But they failed.”
He said his voice was booming at times, filling the ornate hall with statues of the nation’s leaders and heroes, asking Americans to see what it was on January 6.
“Democracy was under attack,” Biden said at the Capitol. “We suffer. We won.”
The president and congressional Democrats began the day at Statue Hall, one of several places where rioters swarmed a year ago and disrupted the election count. Biden drew a distinction between the truth of what happened and the false narratives that have emerged about the Capitol attack, including the refusal of many Republicans to confirm that Biden had won the 2020 election.
Biden said, “You and I and the whole world saw it with your own eyes.”
He asked the listeners to close their eyes and recall what they had seen that day, as they witnessed the harsh, violent scene, the mob attacking the police, threatening the Speaker of the House, the Vice President threatening to hang. Describing the hanging frames – while Trump was sitting in the White House watching it on TV.
“Here’s the truth of God about January 6, 2021,” Biden said. “They were trying to break the Constitution.”
“We need to be absolutely clear about what is true and what is false. Here is the truth,” he said. “The former president of the United States has spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.”
“We are in a fight for the soul of America.”
“I didn’t seek this fight, brought to this capitol a year from today. But I won’t move away from it either. I will stand in this violation, I will defend this country. I will kill anyone on the neck of this democracy. Won’t let the dagger
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Democrats will participate, personally and virtually, in a series of remembrance events during the day, but nearly every Republican on Capitol Hill will be absent. The division is a stark reminder of the breakdown between the two sides, as hundreds of Trump supporters violently pushed past police, using their fists and flags to break through the windows of the Capitol and in validation of Biden’s victory. interrupted.
While congressional Republicans almost universally condemned the attack in subsequent days, most remained loyal to the former president.
Rep. Liz Cheney, chair of the House committee investigating the attack and one of the few GOP lawmakers who attended Capitol gatherings, warned that “the danger continues.” Trump, she said, “continues to make the same claim that he knows there was violence on January 6.
“Unfortunately, too many people in my own party are embracing the former president, looking the other way or downplaying the threat,” she told NBC’s “Today.” “This is how democracies die. We just can’t let that happen.”
A contingent of aides attending the funeral of former Sen. Johnny Isaacson in Georgia was absent, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
In order to inform the public, Democrats examined the rebellion’s plan to spend the coming months telling the American people what happened last January. But the leaders will spend the anniversary appealing to the broader patriotic instincts.
During the 2020 campaign, Biden said his incentive to run for the White House was to fight for the “soul of the nation” after seeing Trump’s comments that some good people were among the white supremacists who voted for Virginia in 2017. Marched in Charlottesville. He warned that American democracy was at stake, and is of the view that the January 6 attack was a vivid display of his fear.
Biden has come under criticism by some in his party for not forcibly convincing Americans that democracy is in danger, or pushing Congress enough to pass an election and voting rights law that would pass the Senate. is stalled by a filebuster. The president has suggested that democracy can be strengthened by showing the US government can work. But critics say this is not enough.
On Thursday, aides said, Biden during his inaugural speech, just two weeks after the rebellion, called on leaders to speak the truth about the attack and what prompted it — even as some GOP lawmakers and the public asked. denied. events of that day.
“There is truth and there is a lie,” Biden said at the time. “Lies were told for power and profit. And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders – leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and defend our nation – the truth. To protect and defeat lies.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, too, is marking the anniversary with a high-minded appeal, telling the Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday that “democracy won that night,” when Congress returned to the Capitol after the riots. and confirmed Biden’s victory.
To honor the anniversary, Pelosi has scheduled a moment of silence in the House, where several members were evacuated and some were trapped as rioters tried to break in. She will also give personal remarks to Hill employees who, as she told the AP, stayed “to protect our democracy.”
Democratic leaders would later hold a general discussion with historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and John Meacham; and a session that included testimonials from the members who were there that day. While many MPs will be absent due to concerns about COVID-19, many programs will be telecast live so that they can participate.
Biden’s scathing message and Republicans’ distance from it come as lawmakers are adjusting to the new normal on Capitol Hill – rising tensions many worry will lead to more violence or, someday, overturn a legitimate election. Democrats and a handful of Republicans feel a desperate urgency to join the public with some beginning to believe Trump’s lie that the election was stolen from him and that the attack was not violent at all.
A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that 3 in 10 Republicans say the attack was not violent, and about 3 in 10 say it was somewhat violent. Nearly two-thirds of Americans described the day as very or extremely violent, including 9 out of 10 Democrats.
As Biden prepares to directly accuse the former president, the percentage of Americans who blame Trump for the January 6 riots has increased slightly over the past year, with 57% saying he bears significant responsibility for what happened. We do.
In an AP-NORC survey conducted in the days following the attack, 50% said so.
Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud have been dismissed by courts and overruled by his own Justice Department.
An investigation by the AP found fewer than 475 cases of voter fraud in the 25.5 million ballots cast in six battleground states disputed by Trump, a modest number in percentage terms.
Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe and Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.