Updated Jan 5, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden speech: Trump's "lies brought a mob" to D.C. on Jan. 6

President Joe Biden speaks at an economic event at the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US, on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023.

President Biden speaks at an economic event at the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Dec. 20. Photo: Jamie Kelter Davis/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden during his first major campaign speech presented the 2024 election in stark terms and placed the onus of the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot on "lies" spread by former President Trump.

Why it matters: Biden, speaking just before the three-year anniversary of Jan. 6, sought to use the historic location of his speech near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania to draw a sharp contrast with GOP frontrunner Trump ahead of a potentially historic rematch.

  • "Today we're here to answer the most important of questions: Is democracy still America's sacred cause," Biden said Friday.

Driving the news: Similar to 2020, Biden is looking to cast the presidential election as an existential threat to the nation and democracy if Trump is the nominee.

  • He's opting for that route over a referendum on his first-term policies.
  • The president repeatedly invoked Trump's name during his Friday speech and offered a searing rebuke of the former president's actions on Jan. 6 and false election interference claims.
  • "It was among the worst derelictions of duty by a president in American history," Biden said of Trump's actions on Jan. 6, 2021.

What he's saying: "Trump's not concerned about your future I promise you," Biden said.

  • "Trump is now promising a full-scale campaign of revenge and retribution, his words, for some years to come."
  • Biden said that Trump is running in 2024 as the "election denier in chief."
  • "You can't love your country only when you win," he added.

The other side: Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel criticized Biden's speech in a statement on Friday and said that "Biden wants to further divide Americans with polarizing rhetoric to distract from his catastrophic policies."

  • "Biden has done enough damage – no one can take four more years," McDaniel said.

Zoom out: Biden campaign officials said before the speech that the backdrop of Valley Forge, where George Washington staged his troops during the Revolutionary War, will help amplify his call to supporters to oppose "MAGA extremism," Axios' Alex Thompson reported.

  • "We are running a campaign like the fate of our democracy depends on it. Because it does," Biden campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez said in a call with reporters previewing the speech.

Biden delivered speeches on Jan. 6 in 2022 and 2023, but his political rhetoric was restrained — never mentioning Trump by name as he condemned the events of that day.

  • This week Biden's campaign has been more aggressive in tying Trump to the riot, mentioning him repeatedly.

Between the lines: Early polling shows that the 2024 election is likely to be razor-thin, and Biden has struggled to make inroads with key blocs, including young, Black and Hispanic voters.

What's next: Biden on Monday is expected to give a speech at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., where a white supremacist murdered nine people in 2015.

Go deeper: Biden will target Trump in speech at war site on Jan. 6 anniversary

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional details throughout.

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