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President Joe Biden speaks from Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol to mark the one year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol by supporters loyal to then-President Donald Trump, on Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington.Jabin Botsford/The Associated Press

U.S. President Joe Biden took aim at Donald Trump’s “big lie” that the 2020 election was fraudulent, blaming the former president for inciting a mob that “held a dagger at the throat of America and American democracy” during the attack on the Capitol one year ago.

In a speech outside the House of Representatives chamber Thursday morning, Mr. Biden warned that Mr. Trump’s “web of lies” was setting the stage for another attempted insurrection. And he called on the country to fight back against efforts by the Republican Party to give politicians the power to overturn future election results.

“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed,” Mr. Biden said. “His bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our constitution. He can’t accept he lost.”

In photos: One-year anniversary of the U.S. Capitol riot in Washington

The President’s unusually blunt address kicked off a day of commemoration on Capitol Hill for the attack’s anniversary. It also marked a new milestone in the Democratic Party’s concerted effort to stop Mr. Trump’s allies from rewriting voting laws, and to refute the former president’s continued promulgation of conspiracy theories.

Mr. Trump, in a series of statements posted to his website after Mr. Biden’s speech, repeated falsehoods about the election being “rigged” and a “crime.”

“To watch Biden speaking is very hurtful to many people,” he said.

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Mr. Trump called his supporters to Washington last Jan. 6 and urged them at a rally near the White House to “fight like hell” to overturn the election. They then descended on the Capitol, where Congress was certifying Mr. Biden’s election victory. Rioters beat police officers, trashed the building and hunted fleeing lawmakers.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a moment of silence in the House for five police officers who died after defending the Capitol during the attack: Brian Sicknick, who suffered two strokes, and Howard Liebengood, Jeffrey Smith, Kyle DeFreytag and Gunther Hashida, who died by suicide. “Because of them, and our members, the insurrection failed,” she said.

Only one Republican member of Congress, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, appeared to be present in the chamber during the moment of silence. She has been largely ostracized by her own party after voting to impeach Mr. Trump and agreeing to serve as vice-chair of the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol.

“I think a party that is in thrall to a cult of personality is a party that is dangerous to the country,” she told reporters afterward.

Biden’s speech both rallying cry and cry of despair over the persistence of Capitol riot divisions

How the anniversary of Jan. 6 insurrection was commemorated in the U.S.

Members of Congress on Thursday recalled their harrowing escapes.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recounted being hustled off the Senate floor that day by a police officer, only to have to run in the opposite direction seconds later when they inadvertently ended up in the path of the riot.

Mr. Schumer was “within 30 feet of these nasty, racist, bigoted insurrectionists,” he told the Senate. One rioter, on seeing Mr. Schumer, exclaimed “there’s the big Jew, let’s get him,” he said. Recalling the Confederate flags carried by some of Mr. Trump’s supporters, Mr. Schumer said it was the first time the symbol of slavery and sedition was brought inside the centre of the U.S. government.

Sara Jacobs of California, who was in her first week as a member of Congress when the attack took place, said she took cover under her chair and fashioned weapons out of her high heels. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania teared up as she recounted the sound of insurrectionists smashing the glass on the door to the House chamber and trying to break it down. Several members of congress recalled clambering over railings in the House gallery in the scramble to safety.

Pramila Jayapal, who was recovering from knee surgery at the time, said she believed rioters would catch up with her as she escaped down a back staircase. “I remember not knowing whether I would make it out of our seat of democracy alive,” the Washington State congresswoman said.

Vice-President Kamala Harris compared the storming of the Capitol to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We all saw what our nation would look like if the forces who seek to dismantle our democracy were successful,” she said. “The very fact of how close we came to an election overturned – that reflects the fragility of democracy.”

Ms. Pelosi introduced a virtual appearance by the cast of the musical Hamilton, who performed Dear Theodosia, in which the show’s two main characters, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, vow to build a better country for their children: “We’ll bleed and fight for you / We’ll make it right for you,” several cast members sang via video link.

Ms. Cheney’s father, former vice-president Dick Cheney, also attended the commemoration. Himself a former congressman, he laced into his party’s leadership. “It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks that I knew when I was here,” he said.

Most other Republicans either spent the day at the funeral of former senator Johnny Isakson in Georgia, or avoided appearing in public entirely.

Two of Mr. Trump’s most loyal supporters, Representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, appeared on a podcast hosted by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to rail against Mr. Biden’s 2020 election victory. Mr. Gaetz referred to the people who marched on the Capitol as “patriotic Americans.”

Mr. Bannon is currently facing a criminal contempt of Congress charge for refusing to comply with a legislative investigation into the attack.

At a subsequent news conference, Mr. Gaetz insisted the government had played a role in the attack. Such conspiracy theories, for which there is no evidence, have abounded over the past year: Some of Mr. Trump’s supporters claim the riot was actually started by government agents or left-wing racial justice protesters who wanted to make Mr. Trump look bad.

An Ipsos poll this week showed that 71 per cent of Republicans still believe Mr. Trump won the 2020 election. Politicians from his party are trying to pass laws across the country to make it harder to vote and enable political leaders to overturn elections. In Georgia, for instance, Republican legislators gave a commission they control the power to fire elections officials.

Mr. Trump is running a campaign to defeat, in this year’s midterm elections, Republicans who refused to help him overturn the 2020 election. Instead, he is backing politicians who are loyal to him.

The Democrats’ voting legislation, meanwhile, has stalled. Federal bills that would make it easier to vote, and that would give Washington the power to intervene in states that disenfranchise voters, are stuck in the Senate, where Republicans are not allowing them to move forward.

During Thursday’s address, Mr. Biden pushed back on Republican efforts to restrict voting rights, answering Mr. Trump’s election falsehoods point by point. He noted, for instance, the number of recounts, investigations and court rulings by judges appointed by Mr. Trump himself that found no widespread fraud during the election.

Great nations, Mr. Biden said, “don’t bury the truth.” He referred to Mr. Trump as “a defeated former president.”

“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?” the President said. “I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.”

Shortly after sunset, legislators and first responders gathered on the steps of the Capitol for a vigil. Onlookers gathered behind security barriers across a plaza.

Magaly Gatty, 56, carried a candle and a sign that said “Defend Democracy.”

“We should never forget this attempted coup. It was an attack on who we are as American citizens. This is how authoritarian regimes start,” she said. “It’s important that we hold accountable everyone who was involved, from the bottom to the top. If we don’t, it could happen again.”

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