Biden blasts Trump and condemns political violence as president marks one year since US Capitol riots

President Joe Biden has marked one year since the deadly assault on the US Capitol by condemning political violence in an address to the nation, as he also hit out at his predecessor Donald Trump.

On 6 January 2021, Trump supporters stormed the complex in Washington DC.

Five people died, 15 police officers needed hospital treatment and millions of dollars worth of damage was caused.

Politicians were forced to run for safety as the mob tried to disrupt the certification of Mr Biden’s election victory.

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Capitol riots: What’s changed and will Trump return?

Hitting out at Trump

Following the unrest, Mr Trump was accused of encouraging rioters to march to the Capitol after falsely claiming Mr Biden’s victory over him in the 2020 election was “stolen”.

Marking the first anniversary of the insurrection, Mr Biden launched a scathing attack on Mr Trump.

More on Donald Trump

Speaking from the Statuary Hall of the US Capitol, he said the former president has “spread a web of lies” about the election.

“He’s done so because he values power over principle,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden blamed the former Republican leader for the attack – which has fundamentally changed Congress and raised global concerns about the future of American democracy.

“For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” Mr Biden said. “But they failed.”

He said Mr Trump “can’t accept he lost”.

“Even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said… he lost. That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.”

Mr Biden continued: “He has done what no president in American history has ever, ever done. He refused to accept the results of an election.”

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How chaos unfolded at the US Capitol

Condemning political violence

In his address, Mr Biden also asked Americans to close their eyes and recall what they saw on this date last year.

“Democracy was attacked,” he said. “We the people endure. We the people prevailed.”

He described the harrowing, violent scene of the riots, including the mob attacking police, threatening the House speaker, putting up gallows threatening to hang then-vice president Mike Pence – all while then-President Trump sat at the White House watching it on TV.

“Here is God’s truth about 6 January 2021,” Mr Biden said. “They were looking to subvert the constitution.”

He asked the nation who they wanted to be as he reflected on the deadly event.

He said: “And so at this moment we must decide what kind of nation we are going to be.

“Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm?”

He continued: “We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. The way forward is to recognise the truth and to live by it.”

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Pelosi leads silence on Capitol riots anniversary

Trump responds

The former president has released a statement in response to Mr Biden’s remarks, attacking the Democrat’s leadership.

He said: “Biden, who is destroying our Nation with insane policies of open borders, corrupt elections, disastrous energy policies, unconstitutional mandates, and devastating school closures, used my name today to try to further divide America.

President Donald Trump is pictured addressing supporters before violence broke out
Image: President Donald Trump is pictured addressing supporters before violence broke out

“This political theatre is all just a distraction for the fact Biden has completely and totally failed.

“Our country no longer has borders, has totally and completely lost control of COVID (record numbers!), is no longer energy independent, inflation is rampant, our military is in chaos, and our exit, or surrender, from Afghanistan, was perhaps the most embarrassing day in the long and distinguished history of the United States – and so much more.”

He added that the Democrats “want to own this day of 6 January so they can stoke fears and divide America. I say, let them have it because America sees through their lies and polarisations”.

Analysis by Greg Milam, US correspondent

Joe Biden never once referred to Donald Trump by his name but his anger at the former president over 6 January was evident.

In the same hall where hordes of protestors had trooped exactly a year ago, Mr Biden condemned Mr Trump’s “big lie” over election fraud and for putting “power over principle”.

Mr Biden painted a vivid picture of the horrors of last year and the risks to American democracy – the “battle for the soul of the nation” – but it remains an open question as to who was listening.

Americans have made up their minds about the election and the events of 6 January, the polls show millions still question the legitimacy of Mr Biden’s win and the likelihood of further unrest.

For that reason, Mr Biden’s speech and the commemorations of 6 January were about elections to come, the midterms in November and the presidential election of 2024.

Because Mr Trump remains a looming figure on the electoral horizon and the extent of his influence is a burning question.

The wounds of 6 January are a sign of a yawning chasm in American politics and no presidential address is going to bridge that divide.

Divide between parties

A series of remembrance events will be attended by Democrats throughout the day, in person and virtually, but almost every Republican on Capitol Hill will be absent – a stark reminder of the divide between the two parties.

While most congressional Republicans condemned the attack shortly after it occurred, most have stayed loyal to Mr Trump.

In December, the former president lost a bid to shield documents from a House committee investigation into the Capitol riots.

Documents including presidential diaries, visitor logs and speech drafts were ordered to be released after an appeals court rejected Mr Trump’s arguments to keep the documents sealed.

The panel investigating the riots later revealed Donald Trump Jr texted the White House chief of staff during the Capitol riot, telling him his father had to “condemn this s*** ASAP”.

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