One Year Since Capitol Riot: Obama, Sanders, Clinton, Cruz and Others Weigh in on 6 January Events
On Wednesday - the first anniversary of the 6 January 2021 Capitol riot - US President Joe Biden and his White House predecessor exchanged accusations when commenting on last year's deadly events on Capitol Hill. They were not the only ones to express trenchant opinions while looking back at what happened.
Reactions to the first anniversary of the Capitol riot started coming in before 6 January 2022, but when the day arrived, last year's unrest on Capitol Hill was once again under the spotlight, drawing statements, opinions and rewinds from all parts of the American political spectrum.
Predictably, the debates around the opinions and the Capitol riot itself have been reignited.
Among the first to offer a statement about the Capitol riot anniversary (aside from President Joe Biden, who delivered his remarks in the morning) was former US President Barack Obama.
"One year ago, a violent attack on our Capitol made it clear just how fragile the American experiment in democracy really is. And although the broken windows have been repaired and many of the rioters have been brought to justice, the truth is that our democracy is at greater risk today than it was back then," he stated.
Obama pointed to how the United States cannot defend democracy and freedom around the world "when leading figures in one of our two major political parties are actively undermining democracy at home".
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton marked the anniversary by sharing an article titled 'The Time Is Now For Democrats to Save Democracy'. She confined herself to referring to the 6 January events as "the Trump movement's deadly insurrection".
New York City Democratic Mayor Eric Adams said that the day of the Capitol riot "still haunts" him.
"One year ago today we witnessed a terror attack on our Capitol. Let’s call it what it was," he tweeted. "We owe it to the officers we lost and who were injured that day to bring those who planned this attack to justice."
US Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, also commented on the anniversary, saying that 6 January 2021 "made clear our democracy is under severe attack".
"We must hold responsible those who engaged in the insurrection. We must stand up to the Big Lie. We must make it easier, not harder, to vote," Sanders said.
He was not the only one to invoke "the Big Lie"; Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was "pleading" that Republican voters would "not follow the Big Lie", urging them to "disagree respectfully".
"Your ideology doesn't have to be the same as ours. We can disagree respectfully, but we cannot follow a big lie," Schumer said, apparently referring to Donald Trump's claims about "election fraud" during the 2020 White House race.
The GOP also weighed in on the anniversary, with Senator Lindsey Graham voicing his condemnation of those responsible for the Capitol riot and expressing gratitude to law enforcement who protected Capitol Hill from violent protesters.
"They were placed in a terrible position, without adequate reinforcements, but did their best to protect an overwhelmed Capitol," Graham said.
He also criticised President Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris for their speeches earlier as "brazen attempts to use 6 January to support radical election reform and changing the rules of the Senate."
"The Biden presidency, one year after 6 January, is in freefall not because of the attack on our Capitol, but because of failed policies and weak leadership," Graham noted.
During their speeches, Biden and Harris called for the Senate to pass the voting rights legislation - something that is not likely to happen unless the Senate changes its rules to prevent a filibuster from the Republicans. Additionally, Biden accused Trump of spreading a "web of lies" after the 2020 presidential election.
Another prominent Republican, former President Donald Trump, was also quick to respond to Biden's speech, blasting the Democrat White House administration for playing "political theatre" and weaponising the Capitol riot to "distract" the public from Biden's failures. Among such failures, Trump cited the bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan, soaring inflation and the border crisis.
Other Republicans felt that, after a year since the Capitol riot, their party is "almost in a worse position than we were the day after" 6 January.
"I'm really disappointed today. I'm sad ... mostly because we haven't made progress ... as the American people, particularly as Republicans, I think we're almost in a worse position than we were the day after 6 January," said GOP Representative Adam Kinzinger.
The Capitol riot anniversary even appeared to spark squabbles within the Republican fold. After GOP Senator Ted Cruz condemned the 6 January events as a “violent terrorist attack", he faced criticism from prominent Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, also a Republican.
“Of all the things 6 January was, it was definitely not a violent terrorist attack. It wasn’t an insurrection. Was it a riot? Sure. It was not a violent terrorist attack. Sorry,” Carlson responded to the Senator during his Fox News show. “So why are you telling us that it was, Ted Cruz?”
The Capitol riot occurred a year ago, when a crowd of protesters breached the US Capitol, demanding that Congress not certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Former president Trump was accused of inciting the insurrection but vehemently denied the accusations. The 6 January events resulted in five deaths, including one Capitol police officer.