By LISA MASCARO, ZEKE MILLER and MARY CLARE JALONICK
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden vehemently accused Donald Trump and his supporters Thursday of holding a “dagger in the throat of democracy” with election lies that sparked last year’s deadly assault on the US Capitol, using the anniversary of the attack to warn that the US system of government remains under urgent threat.
The President set the tone for a day of remembrance that brought fiery speeches, moments of silence and anguished tales from lawmakers recalling the terrifying hours of January 6, 2021, when Trump’s mob besieged Capitol and rioted tried to stop the routine, certification ceremony of the election results.
Notably, hardly any Republican joined Biden and the Democrats in what some hoped would be a day of reconciliation. Instead, it was a new and jarring demonstration of a nation still deeply torn by the lies that led to the riot, its unstable aftermath, and Trump’s continued hold over much of the world. country.
“For the first time in our history, a president not only lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob raped the Capitol,” Biden said. “You can’t love your country just when you win. “
Biden’s criticism of the defeated president was full of condemnation for the assault that fundamentally changed Congress and the nation, and raised global concerns about the future of American democracy.
His voice booming at times, reverberating through the ornate Statues Hall where rioters had besieged, the president called on Americans to remember what they saw on January 6 with their own eyes: the mob attacking police and breaking windows, a Confederate flag inside the Capitol, a gallows erected outside amid calls to hang the vice president – all while Trump sat in the White House watching television.
“The supporters of the former president are trying to rewrite history,” Biden said incredulously. They want you to see Election Day as the day of the uprising and the riot that took place here on January 6 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 can not.”
Until the anniversary, Biden had only mentioned the attack sparingly, but he weighed aggressively on Thursday and associated his post with a call for voting rights legislation Democrats have long been calling for. .
The president’s remarks contrasted starkly with the false accounts that persist about the assault on Capitol Hill, including the continued refusal by many Republicans to claim that Biden won the 2020 election. Capitol and its immediate consequences.
“We have to be absolutely clear on what’s true and what’s a lie,” Biden said. “The former President of the United States of America has spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.”
Yet even as the president spoke, the defeated Trump gave no sign of letting go, a display of division in the country underscored by the silence and absence of most Republicans to join Biden on Capitol Hill.
From Florida, Trump has re-launched his baseless attack on the election. He took no responsibility for sending thousands of supporters to Capitol Hill that day when he told them to “fight like hell”. Thursday evening, he sent out a fundraising appeal.
Even among Congressional Republicans who condemned the attack in the days that followed, few have spoken this way now – some have joined in the misrepresentation of Trump.
“What a cheeky politicization of Jan. 6 by President Biden,” tweeted Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a sometimes Trump confidant who initially said he ditched Trump after the riot to quickly kiss him again. .
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell – who at the time said Trump was “practically and morally” responsible for the attack – issued a statement that underscored the gravity of the day, but also said some Democrats were trying to exploit it for other purposes. He was absent, with a contingent attending the funeral of former colleague Senator Johnny Isakson in Georgia.
Representative Liz Cheney, deputy chair of the House committee investigating the attack and one of the few GOP lawmakers attending the Capitol Ceremonies, warned that “the threat remains.” Trump, she said, “continues to make the same claims he knows caused violence on Jan.6.”
“Unfortunately, too many people in my own party are kissing the former president, looking the other way or downplaying the danger,” she told NBC’s “Today” show. “This is how democracies die. We simply cannot let this happen.
She was joined by her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president and now a former Republican Party. They were the only GOP members seen for a moment of silence on the house floor.
Dick Cheney was greeted by several Democrats and said in a statement: “I am deeply disappointed by the failure of many in my party to recognize the gravity of the January 6 attacks and the continuing threat to our nation.”
Throughout Thursday, lawmakers shared their experiences of being trapped in the House or rushing out of the Senate, as the seat raged for hours. Representative Dan Kildee from Michigan showed a shard of glass from one of the Capitol’s shattered windows he carries in his pocket.
“January 6 is not over,” he said, choking. “The threat, and the lie that feeds that threat, continues to nod its head.” He said: To truly protect our democracy, we need the truth.
The House panel investigating the insurgency plans to spend the coming months exploring and revealing what transpired in public hearings.
Biden and his administration have been criticized by some in his party for failing to adequately explain how they think democracy is in danger, or for pushing Congress hard enough to pass election and rights legislation vote blocked by Republican obstruction in the Senate.
Barack Obama, the former president, said that “nothing is more important” on the occasion of the anniversary than guaranteeing the right to vote.
“Our democracy is more threatened today than it was then,” Obama said in a statement.
Biden’s speech and that of Vice President Kamala Harris, who is leading the administration’s efforts on voting and election law, came as a direct response to the criticism.
“We need to pass voting rights bills,” Harris said in his speech. “We cannot sit on the sidelines. “
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew on history in the hope that Americans would look to their “best angels” to resolve differences. Lawmakers organized a night vigil on the steps of the Capitol.
Other commemorations – or demonstrations – were few in the country.
Biden’s clear message and Republicans’ estrangement from him comes as lawmakers adjust to the new normal on Capitol Hill – mounting tensions that worry many will result in more violence or, one day, an election legitimate in fact canceled.
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. About two-thirds of Americans described the day as very or extremely violent, including about 9 in 10 Democrats.
The percentage of Americans who blame Trump for the riot has increased slightly over the past year, with 57% saying he bears significant responsibility, up from 50% in the days following the attack.
Trump’s claims of widespread electoral fraud have been dismissed by the courts and refuted by his own Justice Department.
A PA investigation found fewer than 475 cases of voter fraud among 25.5 million ballots cast in the six battlefield states challenged by Trump, a tiny number in percentage terms.
Associated Press editors Darlene Superville, Kevin Freking, Jill Colvin Alexandra Jaffe, and Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.