Biden to sharpen attack on Trump in Jan. 6 anniversary speech

By Jarrett Renshaw

(Reuters) – President Joe Biden will mark the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S Capitol with a political speech the day before to make the case that Republican Donald Trump poses an existential threat to democracy, Biden’s re-election campaign said on Wednesday.

Biden’s campaign said he will speak near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where George Washington established headquarters during the Revolutionary War. The speech site, Montgomery County Community College, is about 15 miles away.

Biden will follow the Friday visit with a campaign stop on Monday at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist in 2015 killed nine parishioners at the historic Black church.

Biden is applying the heat on Trump as a way to change his campaign’s narrative away from his handling of the U.S. economy and his age, 81.

Trump is 77.

Biden had planned to deliver his Pennsylvania remarks on Saturday, the actual anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, but moved it to Friday to avoid a forecast winter storm.

In South Carolina, which Democrats moved to the front of the presidential primary calendar this election cycle after Black voters there helped Biden clinch the nomination in 2020, Biden will focus on what the campaign described as rising threats of political violence.

Taken together, the two visits will represent Biden’s most direct public attacks so far in the 2024 race on top Republican rival Trump and the party he controls, and mark a shift in tone after Biden spent much of 2023 touting his signature legislation and the economy.

“The choice for voters next year will not simply be between competing philosophies of governing. The choice for the American people in November 2024 will be about protecting our democracy and every American’s fundamental freedoms,” said Biden campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez.

Thousands of Trump supporters attacked the U.S Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in a bid to stop formal certification of the Republican president’s election defeat, causing millions of dollars in damage. Four people died on the day of the attack, and one Capitol Police officer who fought against the rioters died the next day. Four officers have since taken their own lives and 140 others were injured.

Trump faces federal charges for his wide-ranging attempts to overturn the 2020 election and was kicked off ballots in Colorado and Maine due to his role in fueling the Capitol attack. Lawyers for Trump have disputed that he engaged in insurrection and argued that his remarks to supporters on the day of the 2021 riot were protected by his constitutional right to free speech.

Trump’s campaign advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles on Tuesday released a memo outlining their view of the presidential race. They blamed Biden for legal indictments of Trump and for judicial decisions to declare Trump ineligible for the ballot.

“Please make no mistake: Joe Biden and his allies are a real and compelling threat to our Democracy,” they wrote. “In fact, in a way never seen before in our history, they are waging a war against it.”

Biden held a lunch with a group of historians and scholars on Wednesday to discuss ongoing threats to democracy in the U.S. and abroad, the White House said. “What happened on Jan. 6 was unprecedented – an attack on our core principles, an attack on our democracy,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Trump holds a marginal 2-point lead in a head-to-head matchup, 38% to 36%, with 26% of respondents saying they were unsure or might vote for someone else, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll. Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination by a wide margin, the poll showed.

Iowa will hold the first Republican nominating contest on Jan. 15. New Hampshire will hold the nation’s first primary on Jan. 23, although Biden will not be on the Democratic ballot there because the state defied a plan to have New Hampshire cede its first-in-the-nation primary. South Carolina’s Democratic primary will be held on Feb. 3.

In the upcoming weeks, the Biden re-election campaign will ratchet up operations and events, including hiring key directors in all 50 states and hitting the airwaves with new ads.

Vice President Kamala Harris is also expected to speak in South Carolina on Saturday and again on Martin Luther King Jr. Day later this month, and is also expected to take a message about threats to democracy to the state’s largely Black Democratic electorate.

(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Heather Timmons and Steve Holland; Editing by Mary Milliken, Stephen Coates, Nick Zieminski, Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler)