US President Joe Biden has launched a blistering attack on Donald Trump on the first anniversary of the insurrection by his predecessor’s supporters, pledging to fight for “the soul of America”.
Making a televised speech from the Statuary Hall at the US Capitol, scene of the deadly assault by a pro-Trump mob as it tried to stop the certification of Biden’s victory, the president was scathing in his criticism.
“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. “But they failed.”
“Democracy was attacked,” he went on, adding that “we the people prevailed”.
Statuary Hall was one of several spots where rioters swarmed a year ago and interrupted the electoral count.
Biden drew a contrast between “God’s truth” of what happened — “they were trying to subvert the Constitution” — and the conspiracy theories that have sprung up about the insurrection.
He also challenged the refusal by many Republicans today to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, in which Biden won seven million more votes than Trump.
The defeated president’s claims of widespread fraud were refuted by his own Justice Department, and dozens of legal challenges by the losing side were thrown out of court.
“We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie. Here’s the truth,” he said. “The former president of the United States of America has spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.”
Watch in full: Biden accuses Trump on Capitol riots anniversary
‘We are in a battle for the soul of America’
Although Republicans in Congress almost universally condemned the attack in the days afterwards, most have stayed loyal to Donald Trump. Almost every one is boycotting Thursday’s remembrance events.
Democrats accuse them of knowing full well that Trump’s claims of an election “stolen” from him are bogus, but of kowtowing to his boisterous base.
“The threat continues,” said Liz Cheney, chair of the House committee investigating the attack and one of the few Republican lawmakers attending the Capitol ceremonies. Trump, she said, “continues to make the same claims that he knows caused violence on January 6”.
She accused many in the party of “embracing the former president… looking the other way or minimizing the danger”, in an interview with NBC. “That’s how democracies die. We simply cannot let that happen.”
Amid increasing talk of a Trump comeback in 2024, Republican officials have been accused of trying to change state laws regulating future elections, to ensure that their candidate is certified as the winner regardless of the actual outcome in the ballot.
“We are in a battle for the soul of America,” Joe Biden said in his speech.
“I did not seek this fight, brought to this Capitol one year from today. But I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach, I will defend this nation. I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of this democracy.”