President Biden on Thursday forcefully rebuked former President Trump in an address marking the anniversary of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, accusing the former president of spreading a “web of lies” that laid the groundwork for the attack by a mob of Trump supporters one year ago.

In a lengthy address from Statuary Hall, Biden said that Trump put his own interests over those of the country and directly and forcefully disputed the former president’s false claims that Biden’s election was won with fraudulent votes. 

“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He has done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest, America’s interest, and because his bruised ego means more to him than our democracy and our Constitution,” Biden said, his voice rising throughout the speech. “He can’t accept he lost.”

Biden never directly called Trump by name, but referred to him throughout his remarks as the former president. He took on both Trump and supporters who have parroted claims the election was rigged in the fiery address, which lasted nearly 25 minutes. 

“The former president’s supporters are trying to rewrite history. They want you to see Election Day as the insurrection,” Biden said. “Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country, to look at America?” 

Biden described the 2020 presidential election as the “greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country,” noting that more Americans voted in that election than any other before it. 

“No election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted,” he said.

Biden’s speech stood out because of his focus on Trump, who Biden at one point he described flatly as a “defeated former president.” Biden has typically avoided talking about his predecessor in his first year as president, trying to move the country past Trump and his divisive behavior. Some Democrats have argued that Biden should take on Trump more forcefully, especially as the 2022 midterms elections loom. 

After his remarks, when asked why he didn’t say Trump’s name during his speech, Biden told reporters: “I did not want it to turn into a contemporary political battle.”

“The way you have to heal… you can’t pretend. This is serious stuff,” the president said when asked if calling out Trump divides more than it heals. “You got to face it. That’s what great nations do. They face the truth, deal with it, and move on.”

Biden’s first indirect mention of Trump, about four minutes into his speech, referred to what the former president was doing during the insurrection on Jan. 6.

“What did we not see? We didn’t see a former president who just rallied the mob to attack, sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office at the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours,” Biden said.

Trump, who continues to perpetuate claims about his election loss, was initially scheduled to participate in a news conference on the Jan. 6 anniversary but abruptly canceled those plans earlier this week. 

In a statement shortly after the address, Trump accused Biden of trying to “deflect the incompetent job he is doing” as president. Trump also continued to claim that the 2020 election was “rigged” despite the body of legal evidence to the contrary. 

Biden’s speech was part of a day of commemorative events marking one year since a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a violent and unprecedented attempt to prevent Congress from counting Electoral College votes that affirmed Biden's win. Attempts by Trump and his legal allies to contest the election results in courts failed on multiple levels, including all the way up to the Supreme Court.

The day’s events took place amid continued partisan divides in Washington and across the country. While Republican lawmakers have condemned the violence, many of them have avoided calling out Trump directly for his role in spreading lies that fueled the riot. 

Biden, a former long-time senator, reflected on the circumstances that unfolded one year ago when rioters stormed and defiled the Capitol, attacked police officers, and threatened the security of lawmakers, journalists, and others working there that day. Five people were killed in the wake of the riot. 

“A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers,” he said, adding that over 140 police officers were injured.

Biden portrayed U.S. democracy as under threat and urged Americans to unite to strengthen democracy in order to win out against autocracies, like China and Russia. He called for action on voting rights legislation, previewing a renewed push that is expected to gain steam among Democrats in the coming days. 

Biden spoke about the Capitol Police officers who lost their lives on Jan. 6 and also mentioned the reporters, cafeteria workers, and custodial workers, who were in the complex that day.

The president ended his remarks calling for unity in an optimistic tone, saying “our darkest days can lead to light and hope.”

“So now let’s step up, write the next chapter in American history. When Jan. 6 marks not the end of democracy, it’s the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play,” he said.

“I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today but I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach, I will defend this nation, and I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy,” Biden said.  

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