White House

Biden to criticize Trump, warn of threats to democracy on Jan. 6 anniversary

Lauren Egan
U.S. President Joe Biden joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walk through the Hall of Columns before speaking during a ceremony on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 6, 2022.
Stefani Reynolds | Reuters

President Joe Biden will mark the anniversary of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol with a speech Thursday taking aim at former President Donald Trump's involvement in the riot and warning of the ongoing threats to democracy.

Previewing the president's 9 a.m. ET remarks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden would "lay out the significance of what happened at the Capitol and the singular responsibility that President Trump has for the chaos and carnage that we saw."

"He will forcibly push back on the lies spread by the former president in an attempt to mislead the American people and his own supporters, as well as to distract from his role in what happened," she added.

Biden will say that Americans have to decide what kind of nation they want it to be, according to excerpts released ahead of his speech.

"Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people? Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?" Biden will say. "We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it."

Biden, who has repeatedly said that Jan. 6 was one of the darkest days in U.S. history, has been reluctant to criticize his predecessor by name even as Trump and other Republicans continue to convey lies about the validity of the 2020 election results.

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Psaki said that Biden was "clear-eyed about the threat the former president represents to our democracy and how the former president constantly works to undermine basic American values and rule of law."

"He [Biden] sees January 6th as a tragic culmination of what those four years under President Trump did to our country," she added.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has scheduled a series of events following the president's speech to mark the anniversary of the day thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a failed attempt to stop lawmakers from certifying Biden's victory in the presidential election. Some House members will share their personal accounts of the attack and historians will hold a discussion on the "historic perspective" of Jan. 6.

Vice President Kamala Harris is also expected to speak.

Psaki said that Biden was "very personally involved" in crafting his speech and that last year's events "hit him personally." She added that the "silence and complacency" of some Republicans in the time since the attack "has stuck" with Biden.

The president will briefly address voting rights, Psaki said, but his main focus will be on the place Jan. 6 has in the nation's history and what the country should do to prevent similar threats in the future.

Some Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have used the anniversary to draw renewed attention to passing voting rights legislation. Psaki said that Biden would have more to say about voting rights "soon."

Trump had been planning to host a news conference Thursday for the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack, but abruptly canceled it on Tuesday, blaming the House select committee investigating the riot.

Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released Saturday found that 60 percent of Americans said Trump bears either a "great deal" or a "good amount" of responsibility for the attack.

The poll, however, found that Americans' views were deeply split along partisan lines, with 72 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Trump voters saying the former president bears "just some" responsibility or "none at all."

More than 700 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot and the House committee has interviewed a number of people close to Trump. The committee is expected to release a report on its findings before the 2022 midterm elections, when Republicans could win control of Congress and shut down that investigation.