One attack, two interpretations: Biden and Trump are both turning the January 6 riot into a political rallying cry

(John Locher/Associated Press)

One attack, two interpretations: Biden and Trump are both turning the January 6 riot into a political rallying cry


January 5, 2024

Former President Trump will mark the third anniversary of the Capitol riot on Saturday by holding two campaign rallies in Iowa as he tries to reclaim the White House.

To mark the moment, President Biden plans to visit a site Friday near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where George Washington and the struggling Continental Army endured a harsh winter during the American Revolution. Biden’s advisers say the stop in a critical swing state will highlight Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 victory and give the Democrat a chance to lay out the stakes of this year’s election. Worries about the weather prompted Biden to move up his appearance from Saturday.

Vice President Kamala Harris plans to echo Biden’s message in her own speech Saturday at a church convention in Myrtle Beach, S.C. ​​A person familiar with her comments, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the speech, said Harris will focus on the fight for American freedoms and principles.

With Biden and Trump now heading toward a possible rematch in 2020, both are talking about the same event in very different ways and offering a framework that they believe will give them an advantage. The dueling stories reflect how an attack that disrupted the election’s certification is increasingly being viewed along partisan lines and how Trump has bet the riot will not damage his candidacy.

Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory, forcing lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence to flee for their lives. Many Trump loyalists walked to the Capitol after a rally outside the White House in which the Republican president urged the crowd to fight hard or you won’t have a country anymore.

Nine deaths were linked to the attack and more than 700 people have gone to court over their role in it, with more than 450 people sentenced to prison.

Federal prosecutors in Washington have charged Trump in connection with the riot, citing his promotion of false and debunked election fraud theories and his efforts to overturn the results. Trump has pleaded not guilty and has continued to lie about the 2020 election.

Trump has continued to build a commanding lead in the Republican primaries, and his rivals have largely refrained from criticizing him over January 6. He called it a beautiful day and described those imprisoned because of the uprising as great, great patriots and hostages. At some campaign rallies he has played a recording of The Star-Spangled Banner, sung by jailed rioters, alternating the national anthem with his recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Republican strategist Alice Stewart said many Republican voters don’t like Jan. 6, but they also aren’t obsessed with it and may support Trump because they oppose Biden’s economic policies.

Republican voters can have two consecutive thoughts and say, January 6, that wasn’t great, but that won’t affect my bottom line, she said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination, called Jan. 6 a protest that ultimately devolved,” and recently said Trump should have taken stronger action against the rioters. Another candidate, Trump’s former one

UN United Nations

Ambassador Nikki Haley often tells the crowd that January 6 was not a beautiful day, but a terrible day.

But popular views on the attack have hardened along partisan lines.

According to the Pew Research Center, in the days following the attack, 52% of American adults said Trump bore a great deal of responsibility for January 6. By early 2022, that had dropped to 43%. The number of Americans who said Trump bore no responsibility also rose, by comparison, to 32% in 2022

to with

24% in 2021.

A Washington Post and University of Maryland poll released this week found that about seven in 10 Republicans say the attack is being overplayed. Only 18% of Republican supporters say the protesters who entered the Capitol were mostly violent, down from 26% in 2021, while 77% of Democrats and 54% of independents say the protesters were mostly violent and were essentially unchanged from compared to 2021.

A December poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, meanwhile, found that 87% of Democrats and 54% of independents believe a second Trump term would negatively impact American democracy. About 82% of Republicans believe democracy would be weakened by another Biden victory, with 56% of independents agreeing.

Biden’s campaign also announced an advertising campaign that began Saturday, with a spot focused on the attack on the Capitol.

In the ad, Biden says, “Something dangerous is happening in America.”

There is an extremist movement that does not share the fundamental beliefs of our democracy, Biden says as images of the insurrection emerge. We are all now being asked what we are going to do to preserve our democracy.

His campaign is spending $500,000 to run the 60-second ad on national television news and on local evening news in TV markets in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as shorter versions on digital platforms.

It’s a theme Biden has returned to repeatedly.

He marked the first anniversary of the riot in 2022 by standing in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, which was overrun by pro-Trump rioters during the attack, to suggest that his predecessor and his supporters

had had

had a dagger in America’s throat.

Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, the President repeatedly characterized Trump as a threat to democracy. That included a speech at Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, where

hi Biden

said the extreme ideology of Trump and his supporters threatens the foundation of our republic.

On the second anniversary of the attack in 2023, Biden awarded presidential medals to fourteen people for their work protecting the Capitol during the attack and denounced a violent mob of insurrectionists. More recently, he said there was no doubt Trump supported an insurrection.

Even during the Civil War, insurrectionists did not breach our Capitol, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, manager of Biden’s reelection campaign, said in a call with reporters this week. But at the insistence of Donald Trump, on January 1, insurrectionists have


6, 2021



Trump is now responding that the federal charges he faces are related to January 6 and that authorities in Maine and Colorado are trying to bar him from the primaries on the grounds that he initiated an insurrection, showing that the Democrats are the ones who want to undermine the country’s core values.

Joe Biden and his allies pose a real and compelling threat to our democracy, Trump senior campaign advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles wrote in a memo this week.

Beyond the back-and-forth of politics, such arguments about who puts America more at risk could point to a deeper problem.

When each side starts talking about the other as a threat to democracy, regardless of the reality, it’s a sign of a democracy that is deconsolidating, says Daniel Ziblatt, a professor of government at Harvard University and co-author of the book How Democracies Die.

Associated Press writers Linley Sanders and Chris Megerian contributed to this report.


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