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Mr. Biden’s remarks, from the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, represented his most pointed rebuke of his predecessor, saying Mr. Trump’s “bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost.”

The president accused Mr. Trump of spreading a “web of lies about the 2020 election,” pointing to his false claims of election fraud and his attempt to block the certification of the election by Congress that day. Mr. Biden didn’t mention Mr. Trump by name, referring to him throughout the speech as the former president.

Mr. Biden credited law enforcement members, including the Capitol Police, for saving the rule of law. “Our democracy held,” he said.

Mr. Trump, in a statement released shortly after Mr. Biden’s remarks, said the president “used my name today to try to further divide America. This political theater is all just a distraction for the fact Biden has completely and totally failed.” Mr. Trump has said the “real insurrection” happened on Election Day in 2020, not Jan. 6, 2021.

The former president had planned to hold a news conference later in the day. But he canceled the event Tuesday night, saying he would discuss the anniversary during a coming rally in Arizona.

A year after pro-Trump rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers and Americans remain divided over what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, and who is to blame. WSJ journalists look at changes in Congress since then, and what it could mean for the 2022 midterm elections. Photos: Getty Images

Mr. Biden’s remarks opened a day of remembrances on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) each led a moment of silence on the House and Senate floors. In the afternoon, Mrs. Pelosi is participating in a conversation with historians and later a series of testimonials from lawmakers. The two leaders will join a candlelight vigil on the Capitol steps in the early evening.

The attack has served as a dividing line between the two parties in Congress, and few Republicans participated in the formal commemorations. Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.), accompanied by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, was the only GOP lawmaker who attended the moment of silence in the House chamber. Democrats have called the riot an assault on democracy, and have cited the event in calling for passing new election laws. GOP leaders have condemned the action of rioters, but they have accused Democrats of trying to use the attack to embarrass Republicans for political gain.

Mr. Biden said the moment called for Americans to “decide what kind of nation we are going to be. 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?”

“We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation,” Mr. Biden said. He said Jan. 6 marked “not the end of democracy. It’s the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play.”

Vice President Kamala Harris equated the Capitol riot to some of the darkest days in the nation’s history.


Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking before Mr. Biden, equated the riot to some of the darkest days in the nation’s history, including the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

On the Senate floor, Mr. Schumer called the Jan. 6 attack “the final, bitter, unforgivable act” of Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. Schumer said that it was important to counter the falsehood that the election was stolen because it could provide a pretext for more violence.

In a statement, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) attacked Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris over their remarks, saying that the speeches “were an effort to resurrect a failed presidency more than marking the anniversary of a dark day in American history.”

Hours before the Capitol breach, Mr. Trump spoke at a rally and urged his supporters to stop Mr. Biden’s election win, repeating his false claims that the election was stolen. Some of his supporters then marched to the Capitol and overwhelmed police officers, forcing the evacuation of lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence and temporarily disrupting the certification of Mr. Biden’s win. More than 700 people face criminal charges for their alleged actions that day.

The D.C. medical examiner’s office determined that four people died as a result of the riot, including Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she attempted to jump through shattered glass at the door to the Speaker’s Lobby. Two died of heart conditions and one from an amphetamine intoxication. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit was assaulted at the riot, suffered a stroke and died the following day of natural causes, the medical examiner’s office found.

House Democrats, joined by 10 Republicans, impeached Mr. Trump last January on the charge of inciting an insurrection. Mr. Trump was then acquitted in the Senate, with the votes of all Democrats and seven Republicans falling short of the two-thirds threshold needed to convict.

The Proud Boys, a far-right group, have tried to play down their role in the Capitol riot. A WSJ investigation shows that at many of the day’s key moments, Proud Boys were at the forefront. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

Now, a House select committee is investigating the events leading up to the storming of the Capitol. House Democrats created the panel last summer, with nearly all House Republicans voting against it, after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a bipartisan commission modeled on one created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Republicans are splintered over the Capitol riot, with many interviewed on Wednesday declining to mention Mr. Trump’s name. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R., Tenn.) said that he wouldn’t be participating in any events. “I think we need to focus on the pressing issues that are confronting America right now.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R., Ala.), who led the drive in the House to void Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory in six states, said: “I’m treating it as a normal congressional business day.”

President Biden with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the U.S. Capitol Thursday.

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Press Pool

Ms. Cheney, one of her party’s most outspoken critics of Mr. Trump and the co-chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, told reporters that “the future of the country is at stake, and there are moments when we all have to come together in order to defend the Constitution.” Her father, the former vice president, was asked if he was disappointed in how House Republican leaders had treated Ms. Cheney, who was ousted from her leadership post last year. He responded: “My daughter can take care of herself.”

Ms. Cheney will join panel Chairman Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) at a CNN event in the evening, aides said.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) said that the false assertion that Mr. Biden stole the election needed to be countered with facts to prevent a recurrence of the attack.

“Truth is the antidote to the violence and lies that followed those events,” Mr. Romney said.


What changes to national security do you think might come from the Jan. 6 riots? Join the conversation below.

Mr. Romney, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and other members of the Senate plan to attend a funeral Thursday in Atlanta for the late Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), who died Dec. 19. Mr. Isakson served in the Senate from 2005 to 2019.

Reps. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Ga.) plan to hold their own event on Thursday that they described as a Republican response to the Democrats.

Many lawmakers are expected to be in their home states and districts. The House isn’t currently in session and the Senate isn’t scheduled to have votes until Monday evening, although Democratic senators will make floor speeches on Thursday.

Democrats have linked the Jan. 6 attack to their drive to pass new federal elections laws, saying that both the riot and new state voting laws were aimed at the same goal of denying the will of the people. Republicans reject that connection and say election rules are best left in states’ hands.

For the anniversary of the Capitol riot, the Department of Homeland Security said it is operating at a heightened level of vigilance.

Photo: WILL OLIVER/EPA/Shutterstock

Mr. Schumer has set a Jan. 17 deadline for the Senate to take action on the elections legislation and could pursue weakening Senate filibuster procedures if Republicans block the measures, which like most bills currently need 60 votes to advance.

Republicans have decried the push to change Senate rules.

“A year ago today, the Senate did not bend or break,” Mr. McConnell said. “We stuck together, stood strong, gaveled back in, and did our job. Senators should not be trying to exploit this anniversary to damage the Senate in a different way from within.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said that Mr. McConnell “would like to do anything possible to avoid having to confront what his party did one year ago.”

Ahead of the anniversary, federal and local officials said they hadn’t identified any credible threats tied to the attack. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters that despite the lack of specific threats, the department was operating “at a heightened level of vigilance.”

In the backdrop is a rise in threats aimed at members of Congress. The U.S. Capitol Police said it logged roughly 9,600 such threats last year, up from almost 4,000 in 2017.

“There has been a huge wave of threats against public officials across the country,” said Sen. Angus King (I., Maine). “Violence is bubbling below the surface.”

Jan. 6 Anniversary

Write to Ken Thomas at and Siobhan Hughes at

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