The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Biden slams Trump for watching Jan. 6 riot as police faced ‘medieval hell’

A video of President-elect Joe Biden asking President Donald Trump to tell the Jan. 6, 2021, rioters to leave the U.S. Capitol is shown at the House Jan. 6 committee's hearing on July 21. (Tom Brenner for The Washington Post)
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President Biden made rare comments Monday about testimony presented by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, sharply criticizing former president Donald Trump for his reported inaction as the attack on the Capitol unfolded.

In a prime-time hearing Thursday, the committee showed evidence that Trump resisted multiple pleas from senior aides to call off the mob attacking the Capitol in his name, even as members of the security detail for Vice President Mike Pence feared for their lives. Trump largely spent his time during the attack watching television, committee members said.

Biden referred to this Monday in virtual remarks to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives conference, first recounting how law enforcement officers on Jan. 6 were “assaulted before our very eyes — speared, sprayed, stomped on, brutalized” as a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of Biden’s electoral college win. The siege resulted in five deaths and left some 140 members of law enforcement injured.

Trump removed speech lines calling for Jan. 6 rioters’ prosecution

“And for three hours, the defeated former president of the United States watched it all happen as he sat in the comfort of the private dining room next to the Oval Office,” Biden said. “While he was doing that, brave law enforcement officers were subject to the medieval hell for three hours — dripping in blood, surrounded by carnage, face to face with a crazed mob that believed in the lies of the defeated president.”

“The police were heroes that day,” Biden continued. “Donald Trump lacked the courage to act. The brave women and men in blue all across this nation should never forget that. You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-cop. You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-democracy. You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-America.”

Senior reporter Rhonda Colvin breaks down the major takeaways from the Jan. 6 hearings so far. (Video: Casey Silvestri/The Washington Post)

Biden has often spoken forcefully against the Jan. 6 attack, calling it “one of the darkest periods of our nation’s history,” but he has rarely weighed in directly on the committee’s proceedings. When asked about the committee’s first televised hearing in June, Biden said he had not watched it but stressed the importance of the bipartisan panel’s work.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters last week that Biden, who tested positive for the coronavirus Thursday, did watch some of the committee’s hearing that night.

The Thursday hearing capped six weeks of televised testimony, but Jan. 6 committee members have emphasized that their work will continue through the summer and that there will be additional hearings in the fall.

On Sunday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the committee’s vice chair, said investigators have several interviews scheduled in the coming weeks, including with more former members of Trump’s Cabinet and his campaign. Lawmakers remain focused on collecting information from the Secret Service, which the committee recently subpoenaed following reports the agency erased text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, after the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General had requested them.

Cheney also said the committee could subpoena Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, over her attempts to press the Trump White House to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

New testimony released by the Jan. 6 select committee on July 25 shows that President Donald Trump edited portions of his speech on Jan. 7, 2021. (Video: The Washington Post)

On Monday morning, the committee released new evidence that showed Trump apparently removed lines from prepared text of a Jan. 7, 2021, speech calling for the prosecution of the rioters.

“It took more than 24 hours for President Trump to address the nation again after his Rose Garden video on January 6th in which he affectionately told his followers to go home in peace. There were more things he was unwilling to say,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) tweeted Monday, along with a video that included previously unpublicized testimony from several people close to Trump.

In one part of the video, Jan. 6 committee investigators showed Ivanka Trump — Trump’s eldest daughter and a former senior presidential adviser — a draft document titled “Remarks on National Healing.”

On the document were handwritten edits that Ivanka Trump identified as her father’s. He had apparently deleted any mention of the Justice Department prosecuting the rioters. Crossed out from the prepared remarks were these lines: “I am directing the Department of Justice to ensure all lawbreakers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We must send a clear message — not with mercy but with JUSTICE. Legal consequences must be swift and firm.”

Also crossed out was this message to those who had committed the violence: “I want to be very clear: you do not represent me. You do not represent our movement.” At the beginning of the document, Trump had apparently also crossed out that he was “sickened” by the violence.