Update (0940ET): Just as expected, President Biden came out swinging in his speech Thursday morning, but still somehow missed the mark. Although he never mentioned Trump by name, the 79-year-old geriatric president tried his hardest to sound virile. "I will stand in the breach. I will defend this nation. And I will allow no one to put a dagger to the throat of American democracy," Biden announced. At this point, we're mostly surprised he managed to wake up this early.
In its review of the speech, the NYT wondered if this is a preview of the kind of rhetoric Americans are likely to see heading into the midterms this fall - and 2024 just around the corner after that. The strategy worked for Dems in 2020, but has been less effective in the months since, as the electorate has focused mostly on surging inflation and COVID numbers, issues that directly impact most Americans. At one point, Biden proclaimed that his predecessor wasn't just "a former president but a defeated former president". He also blasted Trump for doing "nothing" for hours as the "assault" on the Capitol ground on. He also accused his main political rival of spinning a "web of lies" and for placing his own ego above protecting Democracy.
At least one GOP senator, Lindsey Graham, accused Biden of brazenly politicizing the occasion.
What brazen politicization of January 6 by President Biden.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 6, 2022
I wonder if the Taliban who now rule Afghanistan with al-Qaeda elements present, contrary to President Biden’s beliefs, are allowing this speech to be carried?
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As President Biden attempts to squeeze as much political capital as he can out of the anniversary of the Jan. 6 protest at the Capitol, the White House has informed the press that Biden intends to accuse his predecessor, President Trump, of having "singular responsibility" for the events of that day. The remarks come as the new AG Merrick Garland insists that anyone involved with that day's events will be prosecuted, whether they were present or not.
We'll set aside the fact that the AG has stopped just short of openly calling for Americans to be persecuted for thought crimes, and focus on the matter at hand: that President Biden's sagging polling and twin devils of inflation and the current COVID surge have left him in a desperate position.
In ten months, Americans will head to the polls in what's bound to be a closely watched midterm election. It's possible Democrats could lose both of their narrow Congressional majorities. To try and stop this from happening, Biden needs to try and scare Americans into remembering how bad the last guy was. And he intends to accomplish this with high-handed rhetoric about media lies and the "subversion" of Democracy.
Biden is set to speak live from the Statuary Hall of the Capitol at 0900ET. Readers can watch live below:
The Biden Team has already distributed select excerpts from the president's planned remarks to the media. In one quip, Biden exhorts Americans not to accept "political violence as the norm".
"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?” Biden will say in his speech, according to excerpts provided by the White House. “We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation."
As Bloomberg points out in its coverage, Biden appears to be abandoning a strategy of not mentioning Trump directly. As his poll numbers continue to sag, Biden and his team are going to try "reengaging" with Trump (on a purely rhetorical basis) to see if this might help lift Biden's sagging approval rating. The day represents "a rhetorical opportunity" for Biden to change the narrative of his flailing presidency and "reorient" the conversation away from the disastrous handling of the COVID pandemic and toward something more politically useful for the Democrats.
Speaking during yesterday's White House press briefing, Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki insisted that Biden was "personally" affected by the events of Jan. 6. "It hit him personally", she said (though not as personally as it hit AOC, who infamously lied about the "rioters" threatening her during the "siege".
Psaki also claimed Biden would be discussing "the truth" of what happened that day, while pushing back against "lies" and the "subversion" of American democracy.
Biden's comments are part of a "day long" parade of speeches from top Democrats including - of course - Nancy Pelosi. The speeches will focus on the importance of "democracy" and dovetail with Biden's planned push to reject voter ID laws that are increasingly being implemented across the country at the state level.
Pelosi, Biden and VP Kamala Harris will all speak at the Capitol (starting at 0900ET, as we noted above). After a morning of remarks, a House pro forma session will be held on the House floor at noon, with prayer, a statement from the chair and a moment of silence. At 1300ET, Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden will moderate a conversation between historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jon Meacham to "establish and preserve the narrative" of Jan. 6. At 1430ET, members of Congress will reflect on Jan. 6, presided over by Representative Jason Crowe. A prayer vigil will be held at 1730ET.
One person we won't be hearing from Thursday (thanks in part to the ongoing social media blackout): President Trump. He has cancelled a planned press conference at Mar a Lago at the urging of allies, according to Bloomberg. Although we wouldn't be surprised to hear something from him, perhaps in the form of a statement disseminated through one of his former aides, or perhaps on Gettr.
Both Pelosi and Schumer have released statements to mark the occasion:
Pelosi's comments came in the form of a press release:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a singular message for Americans and the world on the eve of the anniversary of the horrific attack on the Capitol:
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, steps from where a mob loyal to Donald Trump laid siege to the building, Pelosi said it’s time for the country to turn to its “better angels,” draw from history and ensure a day like Jan. 6 never happens again.
“Make no mistake, our democracy was on the brink of catastrophe,” Pelosi told the AP.
“Democracy won that night,” she said. “These people, because of the courageous work of the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police and others, they were deterred in their action to stop the peaceful transfer of power. They lost.”
The speaker will lead Congress on Thursday in a day of remembrance at the Capitol, with President Joe Biden speaking in the morning, and historians and lawmakers sharing remembrances throughout the day — though few Republicans are expected to attend.
The deadly insurrection stunned the country, and the world, as rioters ransacked the Capitol, some in hand-to-hand combat with police, after a defeated President Trump exhorted them to fight as Congress was certifying the Biden’s election.
Pelosi said no one could have imagined a U.S. president calling for an insurrection, but there’s now an “enormous civic lesson learned as to what a president is capable of,” she said.
“I think now people are alerted to the fact that there can be rogue presidents.”
The California congresswoman, who made history 15 years ago as the first female speaker of the House -- and has become one of the most powerful leaders ever to have held the gavel -- said she bears “absolutely no sense of responsibility” for the current divisions in Congress, or the country.
After having twice led the House to impeach Trump, she said her message to those who assaulted the Capitol — and the millions of Americans who backed Trump and may support him again — is that they were lied to. Countless court cases and investigations have shown no evidence of voter fraud that could have tipped the election, as he claims.
“They may have thought that was right,” she said. ”But they were lied to by the president of the United States.”
For that, she said, “he should be ashamed.”
Sitting beneath a portrait of George Washington, Pelosi drew heavily on the founders’ vision for a country where Americans would have many differences but rely on common sense to resolve them.
She drew on Abraham Lincoln’s time -- insisting on constructing the dome of the Capitol despite naysayers during the Civil War-- to keep the country together.
“We cannot shirk our responsibility. We have the power and we have the responsibility and we will live up to that to keep our country together,” she said.
“Let’s hope that we never elect a president who will incite an insurrection on the Congress of the United States.”
Looking back on the night of Jan. 6 after the riot, Pelosi said she is most proud of the decision congressional leaders made, once the Capitol was cleared of the mob, to quickly return to certify the election results.
She hopes to “soon” reopen the mostly shuttered Capitol -- a “symbol of democracy to the world,“ now closed longer than any other time in its history — once the coronavirus pandemic wanes and the physician’s office signals it is safe.
And Pelosi urged Americans to look ahead, not back.
“The future is America’s resilience, America’s greatness,” she said. “America will always prevail and that we will survive — even what we went through last year.”
And here are Schumer's:
Dear Colleague: As we approach the anniversary of the January 6 attack on our Capitol and our democracy, I am writing to follow up on my last Dear Colleague before Christmas, specifically to outline next steps on urgently-needed voting rights legislation. One year ago this week, we experienced great sorrow: mere hours after the dawn of a new Congress and a new Majority, our beloved Capitol was attacked. It was attacked in a naked attempt to derail our Republic’s most sacred tradition: the peaceful transfer of power. Domestic violent extremists sought to inflict chaos and violence. Fueled by conspiracy and the ravings of a vengeful former President, they sought to destroy our Republic. Our democracy held – for now. As we all are witnessing, the attacks on our democracy have not ceased. In fact, they have only accelerated. Much like the violent insurrectionists who stormed the US Capitol nearly one year ago, Republican officials in states across the country have seized on the former president’s Big Lie about widespread voter fraud to enact anti-democratic legislation and seize control of typically non-partisan election administration functions. While these actions all proceed under the guise of so-called “election integrity”, the true aim couldn’t be more clear.
They want to unwind the progress of our Union, restrict access to the ballot, silence the voices of millions of voters, and undermine free and fair elections. They wish to propagate the Big Lie perpetuated by the former president that our elections are not on the level. Make no mistake about it: this week Senate Democrats will make clear that what happened on January 6th and the one-sided, partisan actions being taken by Republican-led state legislatures across the country are directly linked, and we can and must take strong action to stop this antidemocratic march. Specifically, as we honor the brave Capitol police officers who defended us from those motivated by the Big Lie who tried to undo a fair and free election, Senate Democrats will continue to make the case for passing voting rights legislation to counter the Republican voter suppression and election nullification laws with the same anti-democratic motives born out of the Big Lie. Let me be clear: January 6th was a symptom of a broader illness - an effort to delegitimize our election process, and the Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic or else the events of that day will not be an aberration – they will be the new norm. Given the urgency of the situation and imminence of the votes, we as Senate Democrats must urge the public in a variety of different ways to impress upon their Senators the importance of acting and reforming the Senate rules, if that becomes a perquisite for action to save our democracy.
Our Caucus has fought back against these assaults, uniting behind comprehensive legislation that would address these threats to our democracy. Sadly, these common-sense solutions to defend our democracy have been repeatedly blocked by our Republican colleagues, who seem wholly uninterested in taking any meaningful steps to stem the rising tide of antidemocratic sentiment still being stoked by the former president today. In June, August, October, and once more in November, Republicans weaponized arcane Senate rules to prevent even a simple debate on how to protect our democracy. The Senate was designed to protect the political rights of the minority in the chamber, through the promise of debate and the opportunity to amend. But over the years, those rights have been warped and contorted to obstruct and embarrass the will of majority – something our Founders explicitly opposed. The constitution specified what measures demanded a supermajority – including impeachment or the ratification of treaties. But they explicitly rejected supermajority requirements for legislation, having learned firsthand of such a requirement’s defects under the Articles of Confederation. The weaponization of rules once meant to short-circuit obstruction have been hijacked to guarantee obstruction.
We must ask ourselves: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same? We must adapt. The Senate must evolve, like it has many times before. The Senate was designed to evolve and has evolved many times in our history. As former Senator Robert Byrd famously said, Senate Rules “must be changed to reflect changed circumstances.”
Put more plainly by Senator Byrd, “Congress is not obliged to be bound by the dead hand of the past.” The fight for the ballot is as old as the Republic. Over the coming weeks, the Senate will once again consider how to perfect this union and confront the historic challenges facing our democracy. We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections.