WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Friday marked the second anniversary of the U.S. Capitol attack with an award ceremony for those who battled to defend America’s democracy against attackers he said were “fueled by lies” about the 2020 presidential election.
Biden, a Democrat, awarded the “Presidential Citizens Medal” to 14 people, some of them posthumously, and gave remarks in a White House ceremony while Republicans, many of them loyal to former President Donald Trump, struggled for a fourth straight day to elect a speaker of the House of Representatives.
“All of it was fueled by lies about the 2020 election but on this day two years ago our democracy held because we the people…did not flinch,” Biden said.
The White House on Friday added two names to the list, both of whom took their own lives in the aftermath of Jan. 6, U.S. Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood and Washington police officer Jeffrey Smith.
The honorees also included former Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who resisted pressure to overturn the 2020 election results in their states, Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, who diverted rioters from the Senate floor while lawmakers were evacuating, and Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman, who was falsely accused by Trump of election fraud.
Freeman was forced to flee her home last year after death threats from angry Trump supporters. Trump on Wednesday targeted Freeman by name again to his nearly 5 million followers on his social media platform.
The White House called the honorees “heroes” who demonstrated courage and selflessness during a moment of peril for America.
Trump supporters attacked police, broke through barricades and entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in a failed effort to prevent congressional certification of Biden’s 2020 election victory. Trump, who has announced another bid for the presidency in 2024, continues to claim falsely that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud.
The White House event will provide Biden another opportunity to condemn the acts of violence two years ago and raise concerns about the threats to U.S. democracy by Trump and people inspired by him. The inability of Republicans so far this week to elect a House speaker, after winning control of the chamber in the November midterm elections, has hinged on a hardline group of mostly Trump-supporting lawmakers, many of whom backed his election fraud claims.
The fight to pick a House leader has raised questions about the capacity of Republicans to govern with a slim majority in the House. Biden has called the speaker election drama embarrassing.
Biden provided another contrast with bickering House Republicans during a joint appearance with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday in Kentucky in a display of bipartisanship. Democrats narrowly control the U.S. Senate.
Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died in the days following the attack on the Capitol, was awarded posthumous medal. Washington’s chief medical examiner ruled that Sicknick died of natural causes following multiple strokes after the attack on the Capitol.
Shortly before the rampage, Trump in his waning days as president delivered a speech near the White House urging his supporters to march on the Capitol. Five people died in the ensuing riot and more than 140 police officers were injured. A U.S. House panel investigating the attack said last month that Trump should face criminal charges for his role in provoking the violence.