Speaking on Thursday from the National Statuary Hall at the Capitol, which one year ago today witnessed the worst attack on American government since 1814, President Joe Biden passionately condemned the “lies and madness” that drove the January 6 insurrection—calling out President Donald Trump and his supporters for putting “a dagger at the throat of American democracy.”
In what was probably one of the most forceful addresses of his still-fledgling presidency, Biden accused Trump and his Republican enablers of waging an “undemocratic” attack on the ideals of the American founding, including and especially the right to free and fair elections.
“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election. He tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob reached the Capitol,” Biden said. “But they failed. They failed. And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.”
Biden forcefully rebuked Republican efforts to smooth over and minimize the terror that shook the Capitol, either by dismissing it as a “tourist visit” or deeming the rioters themselves patriots.
“This wasn’t a group of tourists,” Biden said. “This was an armed insurrection. They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people. They were looking to deny the will of the people.”
Biden continued by attempting to reclaim the 2020 election from GOP lies. It was, instead, “the greatest exercise of democracy in the history of this country.”
“More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history,” he said. “Over 150 million Americans went to the polls and voted that day. In a pandemic. Some at great risk to their lives. They should be applauded, not attacked.”
But Biden didn’t shy away from casting Republican attacks on voting rights as a real and persistent existential threat. “It’s wrong. It’s undemocratic. And frankly it’s un-American,” he said.
Biden’s remarks came as Democrats prepare to push for new voting rights legislation to combat an unprecedented effort by Republicans to limit the right to vote. The legislation has garnered very little Republican support and is virtually guaranteed to fail unless the Senate votes to reform the filibuster, which conservative Democrats oppose. Biden appeared to reference those bills when he urged Americans to “write the next chapter in American history” and ensure that “January 6 marks not the end of democracy, but the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play.”
In public appearances, Biden has generally declined to speak about Trump when given the opportunity. But in today’s speech, he broke that rule, even if he didn’t mention Trump by name.
“He’s not just the former president. He’s a defeated former president. Defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.”
Watch the entire speech below: