President Joe Biden marked the anniversary of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol with a searing speech that blasted Donald Trump — referring to him as “the former president,” but never by name — for spreading a “web of lies” and trying to tear down the U.S. election system because he could not accept that he lost a free and fair election.
“Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America and American democracy,” Biden said. “They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here in rage. Not in service of America, rather in service of one man.”
The president made his remarks in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall where, one year prior, rioters were seen tearing through the ornate chamber as they sought to interrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Biden began by invoking the history of the space, noting that the Confederate flag was waved in the Capitol for the first time on January 6, which had never happened before, even during the Civil War.
He said that democracy and the U.S. Constitution were attacked during the January 6 attack, but Capitol and D.C. Metropolitan police, along with the National Guard, “saved the rule of law,” despite being significantly outnumbered. “Our democracy held. We the people endured. We the people prevailed,” Biden said.
Then the president’s tone shifted, growing more fiery as he spoke about Trump, clearly accusing his predecessor of instigating the day’s tragic events.
“My fellow Americans, in life there’s truth and, tragically, there are lies. Lies conceived and spread for profit and power. We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie. And here’s the truth. The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Biden said.
He continued, “He’s done so because he values power over principle. Because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests, than America’s interests. Because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our constitution. He can’t accept he lost.”
Biden went on to lay out what he described as Trump’s consistent lies and attempts to subvert the 2020 election.
“Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively sowing doubt about the election results. He built his lie over months. Wasn’t based in any facts. He was just looking for an excuse, a pretext to cover for the truth,” Biden said. “He’s not just a former president. He’s a defeated former president. Defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election. There is simply zero proof that the election results were inaccurate.”
The president also pushed back on attempts by rioters and their supporters to paint themselves as the true patriots.
“Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob ransacking the Capitol? Destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways. Rifling through the desks of representatives and senators, hunting down members of Congress. Patriots? Not in my view,” Biden said.
He went on, “You can’t love your country only when you win. You can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient. You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.”
Biden concluded by saying he sees this as a pivotal moment for the country, a challenge that the nation can choose to emerge from stronger.
“Believe me, I know how difficult democracy is, but I’m crystal clear about the threats America faces. I also know that our darkest days can lead to light and hope,” Biden said. “So now let’s step up, write the next chapter in American history. For January 6 marks not the end of democracy but the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play.”
Trump, who earlier this week canceled a January 6 anniversary press conference he had planned to hold a Mar-a-Lago, responded to Biden’s speech by issuing a rambling two-paragraph statement that largely focused on attacking his successor’s record as president. He said Biden “used my name” (he didn’t) to “further divide America,” and dismissed his remarks as “political theater.” The statement ends with Trump repeating vague lies about the 2020 election being “rigged” against him.
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