Biden to call out Trump 'lies' in Capitol riot speech
Washington (AFP) – President Joe Biden will warn Thursday that US democracy is under threat from his predecessor Donald Trump's conspiracy theories, in a dark speech marking the first anniversary of the January 6 attack against Congress.
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Speaking from Statuary Hall in the Capitol -- the scene of violent assaults by a Trump mob trying to stop certification of Biden's 2020 election win a year ago -- the president will recall his "horror" during that "dark day," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
The event, where Vice President Kamala Harris will also speak, is scheduled for 9:00 am (1400 GMT).
But such are the depths of division 12 months later that many Republicans won't even be there to listen.
The party's senior lawmaker, Senator Mitch McConnell, is leading a delegation to a funeral of a recently deceased senator some 600 miles (965 kilometers) away in Atlanta, Georgia.
And Trump, who had initially planned to try and steal the limelight by holding an anniversary press conference in Florida, dismissed the ceremonies, which will include a prayer vigil, as Democrats "congregating... to fan the flames of a divide that THEY created."
Biden took office promising to bring old school decency and calm back to Washington, but will instead respond with his own offensive.
Until now, Biden has mostly opted to ignore Trump, even as the Republican continues his unprecedented campaign to discredit the 2020 election and claim, fraudulently, that he won.
Apparently, no more.
"I would expect President Biden to lay out the significance of what happened at the Capitol and the singular responsibility President Trump has for the chaos and carnage," Psaki said.
"He will forcibly push back on the lies spread by the former president in an attempt to mislead the American people and his own supporters," she said.
Asked if Biden would use Trump's name, Psaki said: "We're finalizing the speech, but I think people will know whom he's referring to."
US democracy facing 'abyss'
On Wednesday, the Capitol police chief, Thomas Manger, said his forces would never be caught unprepared again, as they were last year.
But the political risk may be, if anything, higher than before.
Writing in The New York Times, former Democratic president Jimmy Carter said Wednesday that the United States "teeters on the brink of a widening abyss."
"Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy. Americans must set aside differences and work together before it is too late," Carter wrote.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also called for a profound look at the state of the nation.
"Without addressing the root causes of the violence on January 6, the insurrection will not be an aberration -- it could well become the norm," he warned.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that authorities have so far arrested and charged about 725 people across the country in connection with the attack.
"We resolve more straightforward cases first because they provide the evidentiary foundation for more complex cases," he said.
The department is "committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law -- whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy."
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