Biden, Trump mark anniversary of Jan 6 riot with dueling speeches

Saturday marked the third anniversary of the January 6, 2021 riot in Washington, DC, which saw supporters of then-president Donald Trump storm the Capitol building to obstruct the certification of the 2020 presidential election. The Justice Department released new footage of those events, which showed rioters shouting at police and members of Congress through broken glass at the entrance to the House chamber.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden delivered a speech on the anniversary of the riot, while Trump addressed its legacy at a campaign event, and in Washington, protesters gathered outside the Justice Department building to call for the release of those convicted for their role in the riot three years ago. 

Speaking in Pennsylvania, Biden called January 6 “a day that we nearly lost America — lost it all.” The president centered his speech on what he called “the most important of questions: …whether democracy is still America’s sacred cause.” He laid the blame for the riot on former president Trump, who had gathered the crowd in Washington. 

Trump, who is seeking to return to the presidency in 2024 and leading in the race for his party’s nomination, was recently barred from appearing on the ballot in Colorado and Maine. Judges in those states held that Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election constituted insurrection, and thus rendered him ineligible to hold office. 

The decision was based on the text of the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in the wake of the Civil War, which holds that “No person shall…hold any office, civil or military…who, having previously taken an oath…to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Trump calls convicted rioters “hostages” in lead-up to primary

Meanwhile, in Iowa, Trump alluded to the riot without ever addressing the anniversary explicitly. He called the rioters serving long prison sentences for their role in the Capitol assault “hostages,” as he did on Thursday, when he said that “nobody’s been treated in history so badly as those people.”

Trump has said that if reelected, he will pardon some of those convicted for their behavior on January 6. Speaking at a campaign event in Iowa, Trump insisted that he had merely told the crowd in 2021 to march “peacefully and patriotically,” and he blamed “Antifa” and “the FBI” for “leading the charge.” 

Also on the campaign trail were those challenging Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination. In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis defended some of Trump’s “supporters [who] got caught up in this, who were basically just there, didn’t necessarily do anything violent” who “now got caught up in the law.” DeSantis pointed a finger at Trump, saying the former president “was not willing to give them any type of legal protection or clemency on the way out the door. Now he says he would do it, but I think it’s too little too late.”

Vivek Ramaswamy, the businessman turned outsider politician, posted on X, “Happy Entrapment Day,” seemingly casting a cynical look on the prosecutions. In 2021, in the weeks after January 6, Ramaswamy called what happened at the Capitol a “disgrace,” and told Fox News at the time that he “was in tears when [he] watched on television that day.”

Nikki Haley, who served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations and is also challenging him for the Republican nomination, was more critical: “It was a terrible day,” she said, “we can never let that happen again.” With respect to those serving prison time, Haley said that while many people peacefully protested that day, “the ones that went in, the ones that broke the law…you have to make sure they pay the price.” 

Meanwhile, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has been the most critical of Donald Trump, released a TV advertisement in New Hampshire calling his own decision to endorse Trump in 2016 “a mistake.”

The electoral process for the Republican primary will formally begin next Monday when Trump will compete with Haley, Ramaswamy, DeSantis, and Christie in the Iowa caucuses.

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