US President Joe Biden has savaged Donald Trump's "web of lies" and attempt to overturn the 2020 election, vowing on the first anniversary of the 6 January Capitol riot that he would let no one put a "dagger at the throat of democracy."
After largely ignoring Mr Trump for a year, Mr Biden on Thursday took off the gloves, describing the Republican as a cheat whose ego wouldn't let him accept defeat and whose supporters almost shattered US democracy when they stormed Congress to prevent certification of the election.
"This was an armed insurrection," Mr Biden said in his dramatic speech from Statuary Hall inside the Capitol, where a year ago thousands of people brandishing Trump flags trampled over police to invade the chamber, forcing members of Congress to flee for their lives.
"For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election. He tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power."
"They came here in rage," Mr Biden said of Mr Trump's backers, and "held a dagger at the throat of America."
"I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy."
Mr Biden's voice filled with anger as he laid out the dangers facing a country that has long styled itself as leader of the free world.
"Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm?" he asked.
Trump doubles down
Although Joe Biden deliberately did not mention Donald Trump's name, he made clear whom he was talking about in a blistering portrait of a man he said scorned democracy because he couldn't accept defeat.
"The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election," Mr Biden said. "He values power over principle." During the assault on Congress, Mr Trump was "sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours," Mr Biden said, his anger clear. "He's a defeated former president."
Rioters loyal to Donald Trump during the US Capitol attack in Washington Source: SBS / , FR159526/AP
Mr Trump, who has spent the last year spreading conspiracy theories about his election loss to millions of followers, quickly fired back with a series of statements doubling down on his lie about the "rigged" election and dismissing Mr Biden's speech as "political theatre."
"Never forget the crime of the 2020 Presidential Election. Never give up!" read his latest statement.
Republicans keep clear
The day's commemorative events also featured remarks by the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, ahead of a prayer vigil on the steps of the Capitol.
However, such are the depths of division 12 months later that barely any Republicans showed up.
The party's top politician, Senator Mitch McConnell, was leading a delegation to a funeral of a recently deceased senator some 600 miles (965 kilometres) away in Atlanta, Georgia.
In a statement, Senator McConnell said 6 January had been a "dark day" but called it "stunning to see some Washington Democrats try to exploit this anniversary."
He was among the senior Republicans a year ago who condemned Donald Trump for stoking the unprecedented violence with his barrage of lies about fraud, which no court or independent investigator has ever substantiated.
Since then, however, almost the entire party has quietly backed off from talking about 6 January, bowing to Mr Trump's enormous influence with Republican voters - and possible bid to return as president in 2024.
A photo tweeted by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy showed just two Republicans present at the minute of silence held for Capitol police officers who died in the wake of the unrest."An extraordinary image of where this country's politics are," Senator Murphy said.
Writing in The New York Times, former Democratic president Jimmy Carter said the United States "teeters on the brink of a widening abyss."
"Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy. Americans must set aside differences and work together before it is too late," Mr Carter wrote.
More surprising was the voice of Karl Rove, one of the chief architects of Republican strategy over the last 30 years, who wrote in the right-leaning Wall Street Journal editorial pages that there was no forgiveness for the assault on democracy.
"There can be no soft-pedalling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy. Love of country demands nothing less. That's true patriotism," he wrote.