‘A battle for the soul of America’: Biden says U.S. democracy under threat on Capitol riot anniversary


U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday accused his predecessor Donald Trump of posing a continuing threat to American democracy in a speech on the anniversary of the deadly U.S. Capitol attack.

Speaking at the white-domed building that was the scene of the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, Biden warned that Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud could unravel the rule of law and undermine future elections.

“We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie. Here’s the truth: A 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,” Biden said.

“We are in a battle for the soul of America,” he said an another juncture, claiming that autocrat countries such as China and Russia are invested in seeing democracy collapse in the U.S.

The speech was a departure for Biden, who has spent most of his first year in office focused on pursuing his own agenda rather than looking backward.

“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?” he said.

“Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies? We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it.”

A series of remembrance events is planned for Washington, D.C., on Thursday. They will be widely attended by Democrats, in person and virtually, but almost every Republican on Capitol Hill will be absent.

Trump cancelled a news conference at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida that had been scheduled for Thursday evening, blaming what he called the “bias and dishonesty” of the House of Representatives probe of the attacks and the news media, a favourite target.

24:34The U.S. Capitol riot and American democracy one year later

On Jan. 6, 2021 — the same day Joe Biden’s presidential win was to be certified — an angry mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. At least four people died, dozens were injured and the country’s worsening political divisions were exposed. In the days and months that followed, the events of Jan. 6 have been debated, disputed and broadly characterized as a threat to American democracy. To get to the bottom of how it happened and who was responsible, a bipartisan committee made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans was established to investigate. Today on Front Burner we’re talking to longtime Washington correspondent Paul Hunter about what that investigation hopes to accomplish and to take the pulse of American democracy one year later. 24:34

Republicans muted about anniversary

A series of remembrance events during the day will be widely attended by Democrats, in person and virtually, but almost every Republican on Capitol Hill will be absent.

Multiple polls have indicated that a significant percentage of Republican voters still believe the November 2020 election was illegitimately won by Biden.

Four people died on the day of the riot, including a female protester who was fatally shot inside the Capitol, and one Capitol police officer died the day after defending Congress.

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In a news conference on Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed to leave no stone unturned in the ongoing investigation into the Capitol Hill riots a year ago.

“The Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law, whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” he said.

“We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”

Garland said more than 725 people have been arrested and charged in relation to the Jan. 6 attack, with those involved in assaulting police officers facing the most serious counts.

He said the investigation has issued more than 5,000 subpoenas and search warrants, seized 2,000 electronic devices and examined 20,000 hours of video footage and 15 terabytes of data.

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