President Joe Biden took the oath of office just days after the violent attack on the Capitol last Jan. 6, but he has fastidiously tried to prevent those unprecedented circumstances — or his predecessor — from dominating his first year in the White House.
On the anniversary of the insurrection, though, his spokeswoman said he plans to do something he typically avoids: confront the legacy of President Donald Trump in a direct, personal way.
Biden will, during a Thursday speech at the Capitol, “lay out … the singular responsibility President Trump has for the chaos and carnage that we saw,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
On Jan. 6, ABC News Live will provide all-day coverage of events marking one year since the attack on the U.S. Capitol and the continuing fallout for American democracy.
“He will forcibly push back on the lie spread by the former president in an attempt to mislead the American people and his own supporters as well as distract from his role and what happened,” she told reporters.
Psaki declined to say whether Biden would call out Trump by name. “We’ll see,” she said, adding that “people will know who he’s referring to.”
According to people who saw a draft of the speech, Biden did not, in fact, plan to reference Trump by name, but instead repeatedly refer to him as the former president. He was expected to directly call out his predecessor for what happened on Jan. 6, framing it as a culmination of his four years in office, the people said.
While Biden has used searing, soaring rhetoric to criticize the attack, the rioters and those Republican politicians who have minimized the violence, the president has spent much of his political capital tackling other crises facing the country: the coronavirus pandemic, the hobbled economy and the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
Instead, he has made clear he thinks delivering results for all Americans, Democrats and Republicans – with elusive bipartisan backing – is key to confronting domestic strife.
“To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words,” Biden said in his inauguration speech on Jan. 20. “It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”
But the “epiphany” he once predicted Republicans would have after Trump left office has not materialized. In an ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted last week, 71% of Republicans said they sided with Trump’s false claims that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 election.
As Republicans at the state level have worked to restrict voting over the past year, congressional Democrats and civil rights advocates have called on Biden to do more to protect voting rights.
Biden has, in fact, thrown his support behind voting rights bills in Congress that Republicans have so far stymied, and he has gone so far as to back an exception to Senate rules to allow voting rights legislation to proceed.
But with not all Senate Democrats on board, the legislation remains stalled.
Last month, as his “Build Back Better” social bill also struggled to gain the support of those same moderate Democrats, Biden signaled an openness to elevating the push for voting rights.
“There’s nothing domestically more important than voting rights,” he told reporters. “It’s the single-biggest issue.”
Biden has called GOP efforts to restrict voting a “21st century Jim Crow assault.”
“The denial of full and free and fair elections,” he said during a July speech, “is the most un-American thing that any of us can imagine, the most undemocratic, the most unpatriotic, and yet, sadly, not unprecedented.”
But when it comes to more personally confronting Trump, Biden has generally avoided even uttering his predecessor’s name.
He has only even referred to the “big lie” – Trump’s disproven allegations that the 2020 elections was stolen from him — a couple times in public.
“‘The big lie’ is just that,” Biden said in July. “A big lie.”
But the president has voiced support for the Justice Department going after those who allegedly participated in the Jan. 6 attack, and he has shared Trump-era documents with a congressional committee investigating it – over the former president’s objections.
In October, asked if he thought the Justice Department should prosecute those who defy that House select committee, which has subpoenaed top Trump administration officials, Biden said, “I do, yes.”
While he later called his comment inappropriate – saying during a town hall held by CNN that he did not intend to impinge upon the department’s integrity – he repeated that he thought those who did not respond to the committee “should be held accountable.”
“No matter where it goes,” Biden told ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir last month. “Those responsible should be held accountable.”
ABC News’ Justin Gomez contributed to this report.