US President Biden tears into predecessor Trump, blaming him directly for Capitol violence

US President Joe Biden speaks during a ceremony on the first anniversary of the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol in Washington DC on Jan 6, 2022. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON - United States President Joe Biden squarely blamed his predecessor Donald Trump for the Jan 6 assault on the Capitol last year and for spreading lies because he could not accept his electoral defeat, in a speech on Thursday (Jan 6) marking the first anniversary of the insurrection.

In some of his most critical remarks about Mr Trump to date, Mr Biden called the insurrection by a mob of Trump supporters an assault on democracy, and warned that America had to act to shore up its democracy.

“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,” said Mr Biden, who did not refer to Mr Trump by name.

“The former president of the US has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because… his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept that he lost.” 

Washington’s remembrance of the riot, which resulted in five deaths and 140 police officers injured, had been riven by partisanship. 

House Democrats were scheduled to have a moment of silence, hear first-hand testimonies from lawmakers and hold a prayer vigil on the Capitol steps, among other events. 

Republicans were not expected to take part in the activities. Mr Trump previously planned to hold a press conference in Mar-a-Lago, but cancelled it at the urging of his advisers. 

Mr Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, who both spoke from the ornate Statuary Hall through which the mob rampaged a year ago, vividly recalled scenes from the attack.

For the first time in American history, the Confederate flag was waved in the Capitol, something that had never happened even during the Civil War, said Mr Biden.

American flags on poles were used as weapons, police officers were assaulted and a gallows erected for then Vice-President Mike Pence, who was in the Capitol to preside over the certification of Mr Biden’s election win.  

“This wasn’t a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection. They were looking to deny the will of the people,” said Mr Biden.

“Those who stormed this Capitol, and those who instigated and incited, and those who called on them to do so, held a dagger at the throat of America – at American democracy.” 

He slammed Mr Trump, who had “just rallied the mob to attack” in a speech hours before, for “watching it all on television, doing nothing for hours”. 

Mr Biden also accused him of trying to rewrite history through statements in the days and weeks leading up to the anniversary.

Mr Trump, who has made baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged, was trying to suppress the vote and subvert the election result, said Mr Biden, who won seven million more votes. 

“No election has been more closely scrutinised or counted,” said the President, adding that even Mr Trump’s own allies, advisers and judges he appointed had told him that he lost.

A Jan 6, 2021, photo shows US president Donald Trump speaking to supporters from The Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC, before they went on to storm the Capitol. PHOTO: AFP

Mr Biden also called out an inconsistency between Republicans’ acceptance of House, Senate and governors’ races that they won, and their rejection of contests that they lost. 

He said Americans cannot just love their country only when it is convenient. 

“You can’t love your country only when you win. You can’t obey the law only when it is convenient. You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.”

A mob of Trump supporters fight with members of law enforcement at a door they broke open, as they storm the US Capitol on Jan 6, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as the US Capitol is stormed on Jan 6, 2021. PHOTO: AFP
A Jan 6, 2021, photo shows supporters of US President Donald Trump inside the US Capitol. PHOTO: AFP

Both Mr Biden and Ms Harris called on Washington to act to pass voting rights Bills to strengthen its democracy and to prevent future such attacks. The Republicans, however, oppose the legislation.

Said the President: “Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?”

Remote video URL

He and Ms Harris will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, next Tuesday to campaign for the Bills. 

Responding in a string of statements, Mr Trump called Mr Biden’s speech “political theatre”. 

He “used my name today to try to further divide America”, Mr Trump said. “This political theatre is all just a distraction for the fact that Biden has completely and totally failed.”

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.