US President Joe Biden speaks at the US Capitol on Jan 6, 2022, to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol in Washington, DC. (GREG NASH / POOL / AFP)
WASHINGTON – 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 US Capitol attack by Trump supporters who tried to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
Speaking at the white-domed building that was the scene of the Jan 6, 2021, riot, Biden warned that Trump's false claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud could unravel the rule of law and undermine future elections.
According to Reuters/Ipsos polling, some 55 percent of Republican voters believe Trump's false claim, which was rejected by dozens of courts, state election departments and members of Trump's own administration
"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.
"He can't accept he lost," Biden added.
Launching such a direct attack on Trump – though Biden never actually said his predecessor's name during the speech – was a departure for the president, who has spent most of his first year in office focused on pursuing his own agenda rather than looking backward.
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But Democrats, a handful of Republicans and many independent observers have warned that the damage done by Trump's efforts to undermine faith in the election he lost to Biden lingers on.
"The former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections," Biden said.
According to Reuters/Ipsos polling, some 55 percent of Republican voters believe Trump's false claim, which was rejected by dozens of courts, state election departments and members of Trump's own administration.
Accusing Trump of seeking to perpetuate a "big lie," Biden said there is a "battle for the soul of America" and a struggle at home and abroad between the forces of democracy and autocracy.
Trump in a statement issued after the speech said that Biden "used my name today to try to further divide America."
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Four people died in the hours-long chaos a year ago, which occurred after Trump urged supporters to march to the Capitol and "fight like hell." One police officer died the day after battling rioters and four later died by suicide. Around 140 police officers were injured.
One of the officers at the scene, Sergeant Harry Dunn of the Capitol Police, said the attack took an emotional toll.
"You cannot get away from Jan 6 even if you're trying to. It's everywhere, especially if it's your place of work," Dunn said in a phone interview. "Accountability needs to be had, no matter who that comes at."
Biden's remarks began a day-long series of events that will also feature House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other legislative leaders, mostly from Biden's Democratic Party. Biden's speech was carried live on all major US television networks.
Trump remains highly popular among Republican voters. He has been shaping the field of Republican candidates who will contest the Nov 8 elections that will determine which party controls Congress and has hinted he may run for president again in 2024.
READ MORE: Biden says to run for president in 2024 if in good health
Trump's main fundraising committee had $90 million in the bank at the end of June, while another account had $7.7 million, according to public filings.
On Tuesday, Trump canceled plans to mark the anniversary with a news conference. He plans to speak instead on Jan 15 at a rally in Arizona.