WASHINGTON – President Biden has denounced former President Donald J. Trump for promoting lies and destroying American democracy because he couldn’t stand losing an election, accusing his predecessor of pushing his own interests before those of the country.
In his most vehement attack on the former president since taking office, Mr. Biden used the anniversary of the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill to accuse Mr. Trump of carrying out an “undemocratic” attack and ” non-American ”against the legitimacy of the electoral system, claiming that he and his allies have placed“ a dagger in the throat of American democracy ”.
“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 violated the Capitol,” Biden said. taking place in the same National Statuary Hall where a crowd of Trump supporters invaded a year ago. After cheering on the crowd, Biden added, Mr. Trump sat staring in his White House dining room “doing nothing for hours as police assaulted, lives in danger, Capitol Hill of the besieged country “.
Without using Mr. Trump’s name, the president accused his predecessor of trying to rewrite history. “He created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Biden said. “He did it because he values power over principle, because he considers his own best interests to be more important than the best interests of his country.” Mr Biden added: “He cannot accept that he lost.”
The speech kicked off a day of commemoration that, instead of showing American unity, will highlight how fractured the nation remains a year after Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept defeat at the polls prompted supporters to invade the Capitol, to disrupt the tally of The Electoral College votes and send lawmakers to rush to safety.
Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders are planning speaking engagements, talks and a candlelight vigil while Republican leaders have largely stayed on the sidelines. Mr Trump had originally scheduled a press conference at his Mar-a-Lago, Florida estate to protest the investigation into the attack, but canceled to the relief of Republicans who viewed it as counterproductive.
Today’s disparate approaches reflect how January 6 has been interpreted through a political lens. Democrats view the storming of Capitol Hill as an existential threat to constitutional democracy like no other in modern times. Most Republicans would rather focus on something else, with some believing this is being used as a partisan weapon against them and others fearing they will run into Mr. Trump, who continues to wield inordinate power within the party.
Feelings remain fierce in Capitol Hill, a post-traumatic stressor place that has yet to fully recover from the psychological and political scars of an assault that has left at least seven dead and hundreds injured. More than the usual acrimony over legislative differences, the legacy of January 6 has exacerbated the toxic rift between staff members and staff assistants on opposite sides of the aisle.
While Mr. Biden was reluctant to engage in an exchange with his predecessor, he used his 20-minute speech to more directly blame Mr. Trump for encouraging violence a year ago than ever before. And he painted a vivid portrait of the fragility of the two-century-old American system.
“Right now, we have to decide what kind of a nation we’re going to be,” Biden said. “Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as the norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overthrow the legally expressed will of the people? Are we going to be a nation that does not live in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies? We cannot afford to be that kind of nation.
Mr Biden also spoke about the voting rights legislation blocked in the Senate, although he has a separate speech on the subject scheduled for next week. Vice President Kamala D. Harris, who spoke before Mr. Biden, said: “We need to pass the voting bills that are currently before the Senate.
Republicans accused the White House and Democrats of politicizing the attack to promote legislation intended to benefit their own party. “It is more than unpleasant for some of our colleagues to bluntly use the January 6 anniversary to advance these goals,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the leader of the Republican minority.
Many, if not most, Republicans plan to be absent from Thursday’s events, with most of the party’s senators heading to Georgia for the funeral of their former colleague Johnny Isakson.
While Mr Trump canceled his press conference, he continued to issue written salutes against the House committee investigating the attack as he seeks to reframe the riot as the understandable result of anger during the 2020 election, which he falsely claims was stolen.
While Republican leaders will remain officially silent, Mr. Trump’s camp will be represented by Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist, who will host a podcast featuring two other Trump allies, Reps Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie. Taylor Greene of Georgia.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed to this report.