Politics

'You can't love your country only when you win': Biden urges Americans to defend the right to vote, condemns Trump election lies on Jan. 6 anniversary

Key Points
  • President Joe Biden on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot warned that the threats to democracy witnessed during that invasion did not end when the violence stopped.
  • Biden in a fiery speech condemned the "web of lies" spread by former President Donald Trump, blaming him directly for fomenting the attackers who were attempting to overturn the 2020 election.
  • "You can't love your country only when you win. You can't obey the law only when it's convenient. You can't be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies," Biden said in an address from the Capitol.
VIDEO4:1204:12
Biden strongly condemns Trump on anniversary of insurrection, accuses him of inciting the mob

President Joe Biden on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot warned that the threats to democracy witnessed during that invasion did not end when the violence stopped.

Biden in a fiery speech Thursday condemned the "web of lies" spread by former President Donald Trump, blaming him directly for fomenting the attackers who tried to overturn the 2020 election.

"You can't love your country only when you win. You can't obey the law only when it's convenient. You can't be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies," Biden said in an address from the Capitol.

"The lies that drove the anger and madness we saw in this place, they have not abated," Biden said. "So we have to be firm, resolute and unyielding in our defense of the right to vote and have that vote counted."

U.S. President Joe Biden attends an event in Statuary Hall on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Biden's speech in National Statuary Hall kicked off a day-long program of events organized by Democrats on the anniversary of the riot, when hundreds of Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol and forced members of Congress to flee their chambers. The mob, spurred by Trump's lies that widespread fraud cost him the election, temporarily halted the transfer of power to Biden.

The invasion sparked an unprecedented criminal investigation by the Department of Justice and a sweeping probe by a bipartisan House select committee. The riot, as well as a rise in Republican-led efforts to subvert elections at the state level, have also pushed Democrats to pursue new legislation to strengthen voting rights.

Although Biden did not mention Trump by name, the former president quickly accused Biden of having "used my name" to distract from his own political challenges. Trump also repeated his false claim that he won the 2020 presidential election, which he lost by more than 6 million voters.

VIDEO24:4924:49
President Biden delivers remarks during Jan. 6th observation

Biden played on Trump's refusal to even concede the race, pointedly calling him a "defeated former president."

His fixation on Trump's lies underscores the former president's enduring role as the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Trump has suggested he may run for the White House in 2024 and GOP congressional leaders have indicated they would support his bid.

The House impeached Trump a week after the Capitol riot on a charge of inciting an insurrection. Senate Republicans voted not to convict him, which could have prevented him from taking office again.

Biden's speech pulled no punches against Trump and his supporters who either participated in the attack or downplayed it.

"Those who stormed this Capitol, and those who instigated and incited, and those who called on them to do so, held a dagger to the throat of America and American democracy," Biden said. "They didn't come here out of patriotism or principle; they came here in rage, not in service of America, but rather in service of one man."

A man breaks a window as a mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021.
Leah Millis | Reuters

"This wasn't a group of tourists; this was an armed insurrection," he said, appearing to reference some Republicans' false characterizations of the mob. "They weren't looking to uphold the will of the people, they were looking to deny the will of the people. They weren't looking to hold a free and fair election, they were looking to overturn one."

Trump is the first president in U.S. history who tried to prevent a peaceful transfer of power, Biden said. He condemned Trump for sowing conspiracy-fueled doubts about the integrity of the 2020 election, for defending the rioters, and for watching the attack unfold from the White House while "doing nothing for hours."

"We must be absolutely clear about what is true, and what is a lie. And here's the truth: A former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He's done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country's interests," Biden said. 

"And because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy, or our Constitution," Biden added. "He can't accept he lost."

Great nations "don't bury the truth," Biden said. "They face up to it."

— CNBC's Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.