Biden’s presidency shadowed by the January 6 riot and Donald Trump a year later

In his speech from the Capitol’s Statuary Hall on Thursday, advisers said, the President intends to touch upon his deeply personal views of the assault on democracy and the attack on the hallowed Capitol building, where he spent nearly four decades during his time as a senator.

Biden worked over the holidays to write and refine an address that will be bluntly honest about the motivations and consequences of the riot, along with the threats to American democracy that still persist. It’s a topic that drives Biden, according to officials, but one that hasn’t played a central role in his public agenda. He has left investigating the riot to Congress and made clear he won’t interject into the Justice Department’s prosecution of its perpetrators.

Still, the January 6 riot has doggedly shadowed Biden’s first year in office. The insurrection was unsuccessful in preventing him from becoming president, but it has instead become a persistent reminder of the divisions he once promised to heal and the fraught political environment in which he governs.

Biden has made attempts to bridge those divisions by doing what he can to move on. Even as many Democrats warn of troubling steps taken around the country that could potentially undermine future elections — including installing loyalists to Donald Trump on election boards and changing local voting laws — the President spent his first year in office prioritizing other legislative battles, including Covid relief money, an infrastructure bill and a large social and climate spending package that is still pending.

Mindful of not allowing Trump to hijack his presidency, Biden has made it a habit not to mention his predecessor by name, though he still does sometimes. He recently claimed, “I don’t think about the former President.”

Yet Trump’s influence has persisted, including in Congress where January 6 has become an enduring test of loyalty to the former President. While Trump canceled a news conference scheduled for Thursday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, he continues to spread false information about the election at rallies and during media appearances.

Trump’s false claims about the election and the riot continue to undermine Biden among Republicans around the country. This week, an NPR/Ipsos poll found two-thirds of Republicans agree that fraud helped Biden win — a claim that has repeatedly been discredited.

‘We have much to do’

One year ago on that January afternoon, Biden was two weeks away from being sworn in as president and was scheduled to give a speech on the economy. Those remarks were delayed for more than two hours as a paralyzed nation viewed the violence with horror and disbelief.

That day, Biden told one of his closest aides that his transition to power — and likely his presidency — had just become markedly more difficult.

It was a rare exception during his two months as president-elect when Biden directly raised Trump’s name during a public speech, demanding he call off his loyal followers.

“At this hour, our democracy’s under unprecedented assault, unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times. An assault on the citadel of liberty, the Capitol itself,” Biden said, before imploring Trump “to…

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