President Biden and Democratic lawmakers gathered Thursday in Washington to observe the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, a somber occasion that was essentially boycotted by Republicans, who are wary of any actions that might upset former President Trump.
Biden used the stage to deliver a fiery and remarkably personal speech in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall in which he accused Trump in no uncertain terms of orchestrating the insurrection.
“For the first 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,” Biden said in what was perhaps his most critical address toward his predecessor so far in his presidency. “We must make sure that never happens again.”
The lopsided partisan nature of the commemoration ceremonies marked a stark contrast to the bipartisan solidarity that followed the last major assault on the nation’s base institutions: the attacks of 9/11.
And it highlighted the degree to which Republicans — from the top ranks of leadership to the bottom rungs of the rank-and-file — are eager to move beyond the insurrection of Jan. 6, when a violent pro-Trump mob, ginned up by the former president, stormed the Capitol in an unsuccessful effort to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory.
The signs of that messaging strategy were everywhere on Thursday.
A typically defiant Trump canceled a news conference about Jan. 6 after pressure from GOP allies, who feared what he might say. Most GOP senators, joined by some Democrats, flew down to Atlanta on Thursday to attend the funeral services for one of their own, beloved former Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who died on Dec. 19.
And only three of the 212 House Republicans were spotted in the Capitol. Two of them were Trump loyalists, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who used the occasion to hold a press conference suggesting, without evidence, that the attack was a “Fed-surrection,” a false-flag operation orchestrated by the FBI and other federal agencies.
The third was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has emerged over the past year as the face of the Republican resistance to Trump and the leading GOP critic of his role in the attack. Cheney, who had voted to impeach Trump for inciting the siege and is now one of two Republicans on the select committee investigating the attack, was joined on the House floor by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.