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President Biden was unsparing in his criticism of former President Trump for fanning the flames of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in a speech marking the first anniversary of the attack.

Driving the news: "The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election ... He sees his own interest as more important than this country's interest, America's interest," Biden said Thursday, without using Trump's name in his remarks.

  • Trump has done "what no president in American history, the history of this country, has ever ever done: He refused to accept the results of the election."

What he's saying: "One year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked, simply attacked," Biden said.

  • "For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election. He tried to prevent a peaceful transfer of power," Biden said.
  • "Here is the God's truth about Jan. 6, 2021. Close your eyes, go back to that day, what do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart. Even during the Civil War that never, ever happened, but it happened here, in 2021."
  • "We didn't see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack, sitting in a private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk. The nation's Capitol under siege."
  • "We must decide what kind of nation we are going to be," he said. "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?"

Details: The president said Trump made three big lies in an effort to "rewrite history":

  1. Biden said Trump and "many Republicans who fear his wrath" say that "the insurrection of this country actually took place on Election Day."
  2. "The second big lie," Biden said, "is that the results of the election in 2020 can't be trusted. The truth is that no election, no election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted."
  3. "The third big lie being told by a former president and his supporters is that the mob who sought to impose their will through violence are the nations' true patriots."

"I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today," the president said. "But I will not shrink from it either."

  • "I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation. Not allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy. We will make sure the will of the people is heard, that the ballot prevails, not violence."

With the country weary from nearly two years of COVID, lockdowns and school closures, Biden attempted to hit some optimistic notes and insist that democracy is worth fighting for.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris appeared with Biden and used her remarks to push for voting rights reform. She also honored the men and women in law enforcement who helped defend the Capitol.
  • Trump said Tuesday he was canceling a planned Jan. 6 press conference.

Why it matters: One year after a violent mob stormed the Capitol to try to stop the certification process, Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on how to observe the anniversary.

  • Biden vowed to unite the country during the campaign but has struggled to meet that promise.
  • A majority of Americans expect a repeat in the next few years of another 1/6 and just half say they have faith in American democracy, according to a new Axios-Momentive poll.
  • In a recent Washington Post poll, 58% of Republicans don't accept Biden's legitimacy.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to restore some missing words in Biden's Confederate flag quote.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 14, 2022 - World

HRW criticizes Biden over "mixed signals" on human rights

Photo: Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Human Rights Watch criticized President Biden and other leaders of democratic nations for sending "mixed signals" on human rights in its annual World Report published on Thursday, saying they "are not meeting the challenges before them."

Why it matters: Though Biden pledged to put human rights at the center of his foreign policy, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote that weapon sales to repressive governments and public reticence on certain human rights violations place those promises in question.

GOP Rep. John Katko, who voted to impeach Trump, won't seek re-election

Rep. John Katko. Photo: Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) on Friday announced he will not run for re-election in 2022.

Why it matters: Katko was one of the 10 House Republicans who voted in favor of former President Trump's second impeachment.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.