Jan. 6 anniversary: Biden blames Trump for insurrection in speech at Capitol

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President Biden on Thursday marked the first anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol with a passionate speech in which he assailed former President Donald Trump for pushing the “web of lies” that fueled the attack ​​— and for doing nothing to stop the deadly siege.

In his remarks, Biden did not mention Trump by name. But he repeatedly referenced the former president who fabricated a factless narrative of a stolen election and attempted to overturn the result.

President Biden speaking at a podium.
President Biden speaks Thursday at National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol to mark the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot. (Drew Angerer/Pool via AP)

“For the first time in our history, the president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” Biden said in remarks delivered from inside National Statuary Hall in the Capitol, a year after that mob stormed the building as Congress was certifying the results of the 2020 election. The insurrection left multiple people dead, scores of police officers injured and a democracy shaken to its core.

Biden asked Americans to close their eyes and recall what they collectively saw on that day — and what they didn’t.

“What did you see? Rioters rampaging, for the first time inside this Capitol, a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart,” Biden said. “Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened.

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The rioters got within two doors of Vice President Mike Pence's office. See how in this 3D explainer from Yahoo Immersive.

“A mob, breaking windows, kicking in doors,” the president continued. “American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears. Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers.

“What did we not see? We didn’t see a former president who had just rallied the mob to attack, sitting in a private dining room off the Oval Office of the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted,” Biden said.

“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’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.”

President Biden.
Biden speaks at the Capitol. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“He can’t accept that he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said he lost,” continued Biden. “That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.”

Speaking before Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris likened Jan. 6 to the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“The violent assault that took place here, the very fact of how close we came to an election overturned — that reflects the fragility of democracy,” Harris said. “Yet the resolve I saw in our elected leaders when I returned to the Senate chamber that night, their resolve not to yield but to certify the election, their loyalty not to party or person but to the Constitution of the United States — that reflects its strengths.”

Vice President Kamala Harris.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Capitol on Thursday. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Their speeches were part of a series of events commemorating the deadly insurrection.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is planning to hold a moment of silence on the floor of the House chamber. Members of Congress, who were forced to evacuate the Capitol that day, are due to give testimonials in the afternoon. In the early evening, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will hold a bicameral prayer vigil on the steps of the Capitol.

Trump had planned to mark the anniversary with a press conference at Mar-a-Lago, where he was expected to criticize the bipartisan select committee that Pelosi formed to investigate the Capitol siege. Trump canceled the event, saying he would discuss topics related to the probe at a rally in Arizona later this month.

Biden also used the anniversary speech to position himself of the defender of democracy, not just in the United States but around the world.

“I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either,” Biden 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 our democracy.”

At the same time, he summoned all Americans to join him in a clarion call.

“I believe the power of the presidency and the purpose is to unite this nation, not divide it,” Biden said. “To lift us up, not tear us apart. To be about us — about us, not about me.”

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