In the first of several planned events Thursday to mark the anniversary of the Capitol riots on Jan. 6, 2020, President Joe Biden gave a speech accusing the rioters of “looking to subvert the Constitution”. The video above shows clips from the speech. President Biden also had scathing remarks for former President Donald Trump.
“For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” Biden said. He added that former President Trump “has spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.”
Biden and congressional Democrats started the day in Statuary Hall. It’s one of several spots where rioters swarmed, interrupting the electoral count of the election. Senate Democrats also gave speeches on the Senate floor Thursday morning. Other planned events include a moment of silence among House members, as well as a prayer vigil led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
“What I remember most about the day is something that I find most unforgiving about it and that is the impact that it had on young people in the Capitol,” Rep. Pelosi said in a Wednesday interview with the Associated Press. “My staff in particular, young, idealistic people who come to the Capitol to partake of our government and the rest and that was an historic day for us.”
Almost every Republican on Capitol Hill will be absent from Thursday’s events. While congressional Republicans almost universally condemned the attack in the days afterward, most have stayed loyal to Trump in the year since. One notable exception is Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who has joined the House committee investigating the Capitol riots. In an interview on NBC’s Today, Rep. Cheney said “the threat continues” for further damage to democracy.
“Unfortunately, too many in my own party are embracing the former president, are looking the other way or minimizing the danger,” Cheney said. “That’s how democracies die. We simply cannot let that happen.”
While Trump canceled a news conference planned for Thursday, he did release a statement. In it, he accused Biden of using “my name today to try to further divide America.”
“This political theater is all just a distraction for the fact Biden has completely and totally failed,” Trump said in the statement. “They got away with something, and it is leading to our country’s destruction.”
Joe Biden, U.S. President: “One year ago today, in this sacred place democracy was attacked, simply attacked. The will of the people was under assault. The Constitution, our constitution faced the gravest of threats. Outnumbered in the face of a brutal attack the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law. Our democracy held. We the people endured. We the people prevailed.”
“Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolizes the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart.”
“What else do you see? A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol, American flags on poles being used as weapons as spears. Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers, a crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them. Over 140 police officers were injured.”
“We saw with our own eyes rioters menace these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House. Literally erecting gallows to hang the vice president of the United States of America. What do we not see? We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack, sitting in the private dining room of the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television. And doing nothing for hours.”
“He has done what no president in American history, the history of this country has ever, ever done. He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people. While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principal of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else.”
“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle. Because he sees his own interest is more important than his country’s interest and America’s interest. And because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept, he lost.”
“The former president’s supporters are trying to rewrite history. They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection. And the riot that took place here on January 6th as a true expression of the will of the people. Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country, to look at America? I cannot.”
“And so at this moment, we must decide what kind of nation are we going to be? Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?”
“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. 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. They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here enraged, not in service of America but rather in service of one man.”
“I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation, not allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy. We will make sure the will of the people is heard. That the ballot prevails, not violence. That authority of this nation will always be peacefully transferred. I believe the power of the presidency and the purpose is to unite this nation, not divide it.”