4 Takeaways From the Jan. 6 Capitol Attack Commemoration
President Biden took a confrontational approach to his predecessor, who isn’t going away, and other takeaways from the commemoration events.,
WASHINGTON — This anniversary of Jan. 6 marked a turning point for President Biden, who for much of his first year in office avoided direct confrontation with his predecessor, Donald J. Trump.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden took deliberate aim at Mr. Trump, assailing him for watching television as the attacks unfolded, spreading a lie that the 2020 election was rigged, and holding “a dagger at the throat of America” when he encouraged his supporters to attack the United States Capitol.
But Mr. Biden held on to one vestige from the past year: He still refused to call Mr. Trump by name.
Here are four takeaways from the day.
Biden takes a new, confrontational approach to Trump.
As president-elect in November 2020, Mr. Biden and his staff proceeded with the transition process by treating Mr. Trump’s attempts to reverse the election as little more than histrionics.
The calculation made back then by Mr. Biden and his advisers was that America was simply ready to move on, but on Thursday, the president was more willing than usual to address Mr. Trump’s claims, calling him a loser in the process.
“He’s not just a former president. He’s a defeated former president — defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election,” Mr. Biden said. “There is simply zero proof the election results were inaccurate.”
His remarks set him down a more confrontational path with Mr. Trump, who holds a firm grip on his party and shows no sign of backing down from continuing to perpetrate a false narrative about the 2020 election. It is a development Mr. Biden spent his first year in office avoiding, but one that he seemed to embrace as a matter of necessity on Thursday.
Understand the Jan. 6 Investigation
Both the Justice Department and a House select committee are investigating the events of the Capitol riot. Here’s where they stand:
Inside the House Inquiry: From a nondescript office building, the panel has been quietly ramping up its sprawling and elaborate investigation.Criminal Referrals, Explained: Can the House inquiry end in criminal charges? These are some of the issues confronting the committee.Garland’s Remarks: Facing pressure from Democrats, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed that the D.O.J. would pursue its inquiry into the riot “at any level.”A Big Question Remains: Will the Justice Department move beyond charging the rioters themselves?
Biden rejects working with Republicans who support ‘the rule of a single man.’
On his Inauguration Day just under a year ago, Mr. Biden promised to be “a president for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.” On Thursday, he appeared not as the peacemaker president but as a leader who had a warning for Americans who attacked the Capitol in service of Mr. Trump.
“I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either,” Mr. Biden said. “I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation. And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.”
Mr. Biden also reserved some of his ire for elected officials. For a leader who came into office speaking poetically about the art of bipartisanship — “politics is the art of the possible,” he said early on — and about the need to heal a fractured nation, Mr. Biden suggested that he was only interested in working with Republicans who have not tied their political fortunes to the falsehoods spread by Mr. Trump.
“While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principles of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else,” Mr. Biden said. “But whatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the rule of law and not the rule of a single man, I will always seek to work together with them to find shared solutions where possible.”
Trump — and Trumpism — is not going away.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, center left, and Representative Matt Gaetz, center right, during a news conference in Washington on Thursday.Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times
The president’s remarks presented a stark choice: “Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?” In corners of the internet governed by Mr. Trump and his supporters, the answer seemed clear.
On a podcast hosted by Stephen K. Bannon, a former Trump aide who was indicted in November for failing to comply with congressional investigators, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia deflected blame for the attack and suggested it was part of a government conspiracy.
In his own cascade of statements, Mr. Trump showed no sign that he was going to shrink from a fight. He assailed Mr. Biden for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and even the way he delivered his Thursday remarks.
Key Figures in the Jan. 6 Inquiry
Michael Flynn. Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser attended an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18 in which participants discussed seizing voting machines and invoking certain national security emergency powers. Mr. Flynn has filed a lawsuit to block the panel’s subpoenas.
“He acts like he’s aggrieved,” Mr. Trump said in one of several statements, “but we’re the ones who were aggrieved, and America is suffering because of it.”
The Republican Party remains very much Mr. Trump’s, his lies about a stolen election a litmus test that he is seeking to impose on the 2022 primaries with the candidates he backs. He is the party’s most coveted endorser, its leading fund-raiser and the early front-runner in polling for the 2024 presidential nomination.
Mr. Trump has a rally scheduled in Arizona next week.
Republicans mostly tried to stay out of the spotlight.
Mr. Biden’s forceful condemnation of Mr. Trump was echoed by Democrats across the Capitol. Republicans were mostly absent.
Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, accompanied by her father, appeared to be the only elected Republican among dozens of lawmakers who gathered on the House floor on Thursday afternoon. Many Senate Republicans were out of town for the funeral of a former colleague.
Republicans were not totally silent. While calling last Jan. 6 “a dark day,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said in a statement that it has “been stunning to see some Washington Democrats try to exploit this anniversary to advance partisan policy goals that long predated” the chaos at the capitol, a likely reference to a Democrat-led push for voting rights legislation.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who condemned the events of the day when they happened only to reverse course soon after, accused Democrats of politicizing the anniversary: “Their brazen attempts to use Jan. 6 to support radical election reform and changing the rules of the Senate to accomplish this goal will not succeed,” Mr. Graham said.
But there were some voices among unelected Republicans calling for something of a reckoning over the party’s support for Mr. Trump.
Karl Rove, the strategist who helped George W. Bush win the presidency twice, used his Wall Street Journal opinion column to rebuke “those Republicans who for a year have excused the actions of the rioters who stormed the Capitol, disrupted Congress as it received the Electoral College’s results and violently attempted to overturn the election.”