“This was an armed insurrection,” Biden said. “They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people.” (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday warned of the dangers of a collapse of American democracy, standing in a historic chamber in the U.S. Capitol that was besieged by an angry mob of pro-Trump supporters who attempted to halt the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
“We are in the battle for the soul of America,” Biden said during a somber and strongly worded speech in Statuary Hall to mark the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“This was an armed insurrection,” he said. “They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people.”
Biden stressed that the way forward for the nation to recover from the attack is to “recognize the truth and to live by it.”
“We must be absolutely clear what is true and what is a lie,” he said. “And here’s the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle.”
Without citing former President Donald Trump by name, Biden noted that rioters threatened the life of the speaker of the House, and were “literally erecting gallows” to hang the vice president as they rampaged through the Capitol and battled police.
Trump, Biden said, sat in the dining room just off the Oval Office at the White House, “watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours.”
Biden said that Americans should not let Jan. 6 mark the end of democracy, and it instead should spur a renaissance period of protecting the ballot through congressional action.
“Deep in the heart of America burns a flame lit almost 200 years ago,” he said. “Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.”
Vice President Kamala Harris acknowledged that Congress’ role in protecting democracy would not be easy
“Here in this very building,” she said, “a decision will be made on whether we uphold the right to vote and ensure (a) free and fair election.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a private moment of reflection on the House floor with staff who were present on Jan. 6 shortly after the president’s speech.
Pelosi also held a moment of silence on the House floor at noon, and honored the lives of the law enforcement officers who died as a result of the attack on the Capitol.
“As we acknowledge the horror of that day in the face of extreme danger, they all risked their safety for our democracy by protecting the Capitol complex, members, staff, press, safeguarding the ballot — in those mahogany boxes — to validate the election and ensuring that Congress could accomplish our purpose,” she said.
The only House Republican who attended was Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. She was accompanied by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who is also the former House Republican whip.
Dick Cheney said he was disappointed in how Republican leadership was reacting to the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack.
“It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years,” he said, according to Capitol Hill pool reports.
Last year, Liz Cheney was removed of her GOP leadership position in the House after her continued pushback against Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud in the presidential election.
Leaving the House’s moment of silence, Cheney said that she’s concerned about the future of the country.
“There are moments when we all have to come together in order to defend the Constitution,” she said, according to pool reports.
Cortez Masto notes Big Lie went 0 for 5 in Nevada
More than a dozen Senate Democrats, including Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto spoke on the Senate floor Thursday.
“We were under attack because insurrectionists had been whipped into a frenzy by the false claim that the election in Nevada and in other states was fraudulent,” Cortez Masto said.
“The same bad actors who fueled the violence in the first place, including the defeated former president and his supporters, continue to spread the Big Lie that the election was stolen,” Cortez Masto said. “And they are using these false claims to pass legislation threatening our very democracy.”
In Nevada, Cortez Masto continued, “extremists tried to challenge our election results in an effort to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president. The former president’s campaign and his supporters filed a total of five lawsuits challenging the security of the election system and targeting our state’s Secretary of State in Nevada.”
“Every one of those lawsuits was thrown out or failed. Every single one of them in Nevada.”
Republican Adam Laxalt, who is running to unseat Cortez Masto, was the state’s most prominent advocate and supporter of those failed lawsuits.
Nevada Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford via social media said “the insurrection was an assault on lawmakers, our staff, and our very democracy. Rebuilding starts with accountability for those responsible. But it also means restoring faith in our democracy — starting with the passage” of voting rights legislation.
“As we mark one year since the January 6th attack, we have a duty to recall the facts and ensure that this chapter in our history is never repeated,” said Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in a statement. “We cannot look away and we cannot allow disinformation to hinder our nation’s healing,” Lee said, adding “this Congress has worked diligently to seek the truth to ensure that such an attack never happens again.”
“This assault serves as a reminder that our democracy is not guaranteed – it requires us all to protect and preserve it,” said Nevada Democratic Rep. Dina Titus on social media.
“We must continue to conduct a full and fair accounting of what occurred that day to ensure that this never happens again.”
Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen said in a statement that January 6th “was an inflection point that underscored why we must keep working to stop the spread of disinformation, protect Americans’ voting rights, and bring our country back together. As we reflect on the events of that day, let it serve as a reminder of just how fragile our democracy can be, while also giving us the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to defending the values of our nation.”
Republicans at the state level have introduces and in some states passed hundreds of laws that impose strict voting requirements.
Congressional Democrats have struggled to pass federal voting rights legislation, due to the Senate’s filibuster rules that require a 60-vote threshold rather than a simple majority for bills to advance. Senate Democrats have also struggled to get all their members on board with changing current rules to allow for the passage of voting rights.
Republican leadership on Thursday morning largely stayed quiet — except for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In a statement, McConnell, who was in Georgia attending the funeral of former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, praised the law enforcement officers who protected lawmakers and defended the Capitol on Jan. 6. But he criticized Democrats for politicizing the day to call for voting rights legislation.
Two House GOP members, Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, are scheduled to “hold a Republican response to expose the truth about” the insurrection late Thursday. No other Republicans are scheduled to speak with them.
Greene, a freshman, was stripped of her committee seats after social media posts surfaced where she encouraged violence against Democratic leaders.
Gaetz is currently under investigation by the Justice Department looking into sex trafficking allegations to conclude if he violated federal law by providing payments to a 17-year-old girl in exchange for sex.
More than 725 defendants who participated in the riot have been arrested in nearly all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The Justice Department has charged more than 225 defendants “with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees, including over 75 individuals who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer,” according to the agency.
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