President Joe Biden on Thursday marked one year since his predecessor’s supporters besieged the Capitol with a pointed rebuke of the violence — and a declaration that Donald Trump bears “singular responsibility” for the attack.
“His bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy, our Constitution,” Biden said of the former president. Trump, he added, is “not just a former president. He’s a defeated former president, defeated by a margin of over seven million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.”
Biden both defended the integrity of the 2020 election and directly refuted the long-running effort by Trump and his allies to sow doubt about the vote. The president also, more subtly, countered Republicans who have urged Democrats to move past the insurrection and focus on the future.
“This isn’t about being bogged down in the past,” Biden said. “This is about making sure the past isn’t buried. That is what great nations do. They don’t bury the truth.”
Calling out Trump and his GOP allies marks a notable tonal shift for Biden. Since taking office, he’s largely held off on sharp barbs toward the foe he could face again in 2024. But Biden hewed to one of his post-election conventions on Thursday: He did not use Trump’s name while criticizing the former president.
“I did not want it to turn into a contemporary political battle between me and the [former] president,” Biden explained to reporters after the speech.
Trump responded with a meandering statement that blasted Biden for having “used my name today to try to further divide America” and went after the president’s approach to inflation, Afghanistan and immigration.
Biden’s speech to a still-reeling Capitol complex — which described rioters as “holding a dagger to the throat of America” — comes as Democrats prepare for a day of events marking the one-year anniversary of the riot with their leaders trying to emphasize unity and sober reflection. Republicans, for their parts, have largely spent the year falling in line behind Trump and his allies’ efforts to downplay the attack.
Just one GOP lawmaker so far has attended the Democrats’ events on Thursday to mark the anniversary: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the party’s best-known Trump antagonist who’s now helping to investigate the former president’s role in the attack.