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President Biden blasts Trump for 'spreading a web of lies' in a Jan. 6 speech

President Joe Biden speaks on Jan. 6, 2022, to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol.
Jim Watson
AFP via Getty Images
President Joe Biden speaks on Jan. 6, 2022, to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol.

Updated January 6, 2022 at 2:07 PM ET

President Biden marked the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol with a scathing speech in which he strongly condemned the violence and said his predecessor, Donald Trump, "has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election."

Speaking from Statuary Hall just outside the House chamber, Biden said that "for the first time time in our history, a president not just lost the election, he tried to prevent a peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol."

"We must make sure that never happens again."

Thursday marks one year since a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building hoping to block lawmakers from certifying Biden's 2020 election win.

Follow along with live updates marking the one-year anniversary here.

Biden never uttered Trump's name in his speech, but he referred repeatedly to the former president with forceful, and at times personal, denunciations of his actions. Trump, Biden said, "values power over principle." His "bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy," the president continued, adding, "He can't accept that he lost."

"He's not just a former president," Biden said of Trump. "He's a defeated former president."

He said Trump sat in the White House "watching it all on television and doing nothing" as police were assaulted and "the nation's Capitol was under siege."

Biden said the U.S. is in "a battle for the soul of America."

"I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either," he 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 democracy."

Speaking to reporters later, Biden said he wanted to "face the truth" in his speech in order to heal.

"You can't pretend. This is serious stuff." Biden said "You've got to face it. That's what great nations do. They face the truth, deal with it and move on."

Trump responded to Biden with a response charging that Democrats "want to own this day of Jan. 6 so they can stoke fears and divide America. I say, let them have it because America sees through theirs lies and polarizations."

Harris marked the day in a speech before Biden

Vice President Harris said the "American spirit is being tested."

"The answer to whether we will meet that test resides where it has always resided in our country, with you, the people," she said.

Harris said "the work ahead will not be easy" and called on the Senate to pass voting rights legislation — an unlikely prospect unless the Senate changes its rules to prevent a Republican-led filibuster.

"We cannot sit on the sidelines," Harris said. "We must unite in defense of our democracy."

While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Jan. 6, 2021, "a dark day for our country," he accused Democrats of trying to "exploit this anniversary to advance partisan policy goals that long predated this event."

He added: "It is especially jaw-dropping to hear some Senate Democrats invoke the mob's attempt to disrupt our country's norms, rules and institutions as a justification to discard our norms, rules, and institutions themselves."

Rep. Liz Cheney and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, were in the House chamber

Democratic lawmakers planned a daylong series of events at the Capitol to mark the anniversary, ranging from a moment of silence on the House floor to a conversation with historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jon Meacham, moderated by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. The day's events, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "are intended as an observance of reflection, remembrance and recommitment, in a spirit of unity, patriotism and prayerfulness."

Later, there will be a prayer vigil on the Capitol steps led by Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Lawmakers will also have the opportunity to share their reflections of the day.

After the moment of silence, Pelosi spoke on the House floor, telling lawmakers that last year's insurrection sought "not only to attack the building, but to undermine democracy itself."

It failed, she said, "thanks to the bravery" of lawmakers — because Congress came back to certify Biden's 2020 win — and she also honored others, including the Capitol Police, who protected the complex that day.

She made her short remarks to a nearly empty chamber. The House is out of session this week — and COVID-19 cases have been surging nationwide and also on the Hill. Only a few dozen House members, many of whom were locked in the chamber last year as rioters invaded the building, were present. The only Republicans in attendance were Rep. Liz Cheney and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

In a statement, Dick Cheney had harsh words for his fellow Republicans: "I am deeply disappointed at the failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the January 6 attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation."

GOP lawmakers generally have not been participating in the memorial ceremonies. Some are attending the funeral in Georgia of former Sen. Johnny Isakson. Trump allies Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene have planned their own "Republican response" for Thursday afternoon.

In a letter to Republicans on Sunday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy charged that Democrats had politicized the anniversary and are using it as a "partisan political weapon to further divide our country."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.
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