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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Any Minute: Biden Speech On Threats To Democracy; Biden: Whether Democracy Is Still America's Sacred Cause Is The Most Urgent Question Of Our Time; President Biden Gives His First Campaign Speech Of 2024. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired January 05, 2024 - 15:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm their mother. And to think that I wouldn't finish raising them was pretty hard.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: An all-new episode of THE WHOLE STORY with Anderson Cooper airs Sunday at 8 PM Eastern and Pacific, only here on CNN. Make sure to tune in to that. It will be incredible.

And thank you so much for joining us. CNN's Jake Tapper picks up our special live coverage of the President's speech right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start this hour with breaking news. At any moment, we expect President Biden to deliver the first major speech of this campaign year, 2024. He intends to warn the American people of what he says are the dangers of another Trump presidency. The speech comes ahead of tomorrow's somber anniversary. It will be three years since that horrific and deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol fueled by then- President Donald Trump's myriad lies about a stolen election that was not actually stolen.

The location of today's speech is in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, which is near the historic Revolutionary War site of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. That's, of course, where Gen. George Washington and his forces survived a brutal winter to train and prepare to fight the British. The British, who, of course, wanted to deny the birth of American democracy.

Before his speech, President Biden did lay a wreath at the site's memorial arch, and he did visit the former headquarters of then- General Washington, soon to be President Washington. The location and the words of the nation's first president are expected to be a central part of today's speech by President Biden.

Now, for his part, Donald Trump is on his way back to Iowa, where he will conduct two events. He's trying to convince Republicans, in the Hawkeye State, to hand him a commanding victory when they caucus and cast the first ballots, essentially, in the Presidential primary election, in the caucus election. The caucus is in just 10 days, the very first contest of the 2024 presidential election year. We'll have more on that ahead.

But we are going to start right now with CNN's Arlette Saenz traveling with the President at the site of President Biden's address in Blue Bell.

Arlette, you've gotten some excerpts from President Biden's prepared remarks. What is he expected to say?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, President Biden's advisors tell me they really view this speech as a chance for him to lay out the foundational argument of his re-election campaign. The President will warn that a threat to democracy does exist and that former President Donald Trump is a major reason why.

They have chosen the anniversary of January 6th to deliver this message because they believe that this is a potent political issue, but also want to make sure that Americans don't forget what had happened on that day three years ago. The President will speak in very stark terms about what transpired as well as what he see as the former president's role in that event being.

The President is also expected to draw on the symbolism of Valley Forge, where, as you mentioned, George Washington commanded his troops during a very long winter. The President will borrow from a phrase George Washington used to describe the mission of his team, saying that it was a sacred cause to defend democracy.

And the President in these excerpts says, "Today we are here to answer the most important of questions: Is democracy still America's sacred cause? This isn't rhetorical, academic or hypothetical. Whether democracy is still America's sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time. It is what the 2024 election is all about."

The Biden campaign has been quite eager to start drawing these contrasts with the former president, and they really believe that issue of democracy, the issue of January 6th, will be a moment of reckoning heading into the 2024 election. Of course, one of the challenges for President Biden is whether they can actually make this sink into the American psyche at a time when there are a host of other issues, including concerns about the economy, at the top of many voters' lists.

TAPPER: Arlette, what do we know about President Biden's campaign schedule moving forward?

SAENZ: Well, this event really kickstarts the 2024 process for him. On Monday, he is slated to travel down to Charleston, South Carolina, where he will speak at Mother Emanuel AME Church. It is there where nine black commissioner - parishioners were shot in a mass shooting back in 2015.

That's another opportunity for the President to talk about political violence in a way that he's also talking about here today, ahead of the January 6th anniversary. The Biden team says that they will steadily ramp up the President's travel over the course of the next few months. They haven't outlined exactly how frequently he will be out on the trail, but they do anticipate that both he and Vice President Harris are really starting to pick up that campaign activity now that the 2024 year is getting underway, and as these Republican primary contests are also about to kick off.

TAPPER: All right. Arlette Saenz, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's talk about this with our panel while we wait for President Biden to begin.


And David Chalian, the Biden campaign sees this as the kickoff for their 2024 strategy, and basically they're saying it's not just Joe Biden on the ballot, it's democracy and Joe Biden represents democracy. What are you going to be listening for him to say?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, clearly they're putting this at the very front of the 2024 conversation that the President intends to have with the American people. I'm listening for a couple things. One, as Arlette said, obviously they're going to draw a contrast with Trump, that's where they believe their whole, like, is the key component of a successful Biden election effort in 2024.

In talking to senior campaign officials, I will note, Jake, one of the things that surprised me that I heard from them was that they believe in their universe of targeted voters that they think will determine the election, like three-fourths of them in their internal research don't believe Donald Trump is really, like, back on the scene and is likely to be the nominee.

So we all pay attention to this and, like, he seems like he is going to be the likely nominee. But for a large swath of their targeted voters, they have not dialed in, in any way to think Donald Trump is really back on the scene. And so part of what he's doing is not only marking this anniversary, dealing with this issue frame around democracy and freedom that will be central to his argument.

He's trying to force the contrast before even Donald Trump is clearly the nominee to start reminding these folks, no, no, no, he's really back, and he really has a chance at being back in the Oval Office and we've got to start fortifying against that to his people.

TAPPER: Kate, well, to what do you attribute the fact that so few of the - of these targeted voters are aware of the fact that Donald Trump is likely to be the nominee or who knows what's going to happen but as of right now? Is it that he - that Donald Trump is campaigning in such a way as to really focus on the base right now and these targeted voters are not watching Newsmax, OANN, what's the reason?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think - well, I think that's some of it, but I actually think at an even, sort of higher level, it's just that voters are not dialed in to politics right now. They're just not. Not - certainly not in the way we are, not in the way most of the CNN audience probably is. Most everyday voters are just not thinking about the presidential election right now.

So some of it, I think, is that Trump is not campaigning in a really robust way where he's speaking to a mass audience. But most of it is just - voters are not - they're thinking about their own lives. They're not really thinking about campaigning.

So for President Biden and for the Biden campaign, they kind of have two key pieces of this message today. One is the fierce intensity with which President Biden feels this personally. I was somebody who was there with him when he launched his campaign in 2019. He was motivated by what he saw in Charlottesville in 2017. The notion of Trump's stoking political violence is something that he feels really intensely about. And your candidate is always going to be a better candidate when they're talking about something that they're motivated by and that they feel strongly about.

And then secondly, this is an argument that does appeal. Certainly appeals to the Democratic base, fires them up, but also appeals to independent voters. I mean, there was a poll, I think, in The Washington Post a couple weeks ago that 80 percent of voters are concerned about political violence in this country. So it is a message that has really broad-based appeal.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and I think that same poll was saying that 56 percent of independent voters believe that Donald Trump had something to do with the insurrection, either somewhat or a great deal. And I think that's also who Joe Biden is playing to. He's lost - he's losing a lot of constituencies as we've all talked about.

But one constituency that I believe that they believe they can really get back or keep is independent voters. And this is the one issue that really will keep them.

TAPPER: Yes. And let me - Charlie, I want you to - and just for folks at home, Charlie Dent, former Republican congressman from the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Biden is expected to say this, according to excerpts provided to CNN: "When the attacks of January 6th happened, there was no doubt about the truth. At the time, even Republican members of Congress and Fox News commentators publicly and privately condemned the attack. And as one Republican senator said, Trump's behavior was embarrassing and humiliating for the country. But now, as time has gone on - politics, fear, money - have all intervened. And those MAGA voices who know the truth about Trump and January 6th have abandoned the truth and abandoned our democracy. They've made their choice. Now the rest of us - Democrats, Independents, mainstream Republicans - we have to make our choice."

What are your thoughts on that? Because honestly, Congressman Dent, you're one of the people he's talking to, mainstream Republicans, that's you. Is that effective?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, what's happening here, I think Joe Biden's campaign is taking a page out of Josh Shapiro's playbook when he ran ...

TAPPER: The governor of Pennsylvania.

DENT: ... the governor of Pennsylvania, and he ran against Doug Mastriano, election denier down here on January 6th and all that. And Shapiro hammered hard on MAGA extremism, insurrection and abortion rights. And he - that was a very effective wedge issue for him.


And Shapiro was successful in getting a lot of Republicans to vote for him as well as Independents. And he won by a very, very substantial margin.

TAPPER: Sixty percent or something.

DENT: It was not quite that, but it was ...


DENT: ... 57, I think.


DENT: But he won by a very big margin. And so I think the Biden people are looking at that, the Shapiro model in Pennsylvania. I think that's a piece of this. And clearly the Biden campaign does need to reach out to those swing and independent voters, because for a lot of voters right now, I hate to say it, but this is just another partisan issue ...

TAPPER: Right.

DENT: ... January 6th. It's just kind of baked in. And so I think Biden is trying to speak to that swing audience the same way that Shapiro did very effectively against Mastriano.

TAPPER: And on that note, Gloria Borger, we're expecting Biden today to not only talk about freedom in regards to protecting democracy, but also when it comes to abortion rights.

BORGER: Right. Well, he - it's key to the campaign and abortion rights is a freedom issue for Democrats. And in election after election and poll after poll, it's their strongest issue, not only with suburban women, but with - it seems to me - to be men and everyone else in this country overwhelmingly believe, disagree with the Supreme Court ruling.

So I think Biden would be foolish not to mention it. And it's part of this whole rubric, which is freedom and personal freedom and democracy and abortion rights fits rights into that.

TAPPER: But Kate, let me ask you, Congressman Dean Phillips, Democrat of Minnesota, who is challenging Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination and who cannot give a debate, is having trouble getting on some ballots. He thinks this is hypocritical of President Biden. He says, "Joe Biden wants to talk about democracy when he thinks it benefits him politically, but he's not too interested when he thinks it doesn't."

BEDINGFIELD: Well, I think that's a sort of ludicrous statement. I mean, Dean Phillips is trying - is running a very long shot campaign. He has not organized enough support to - if you're working through the party requirements for being on the debate stage, he hasn't earned enough support. I mean, there are a lot of logistical reasons that we could talk about why he's not - hit a threshold that would trigger a debate.

But also it's unfortunate to see somebody who claims to be himself an advocate for democracy using this opportunity to essentially try to tear down the President in order to promote himself. We'll just call it what it is.

I think Joe Biden has been very clear about the, the need for us to protect democracy. It's been a core central message for him. He's running, presumably, I guess we'll see what happens in a couple of weeks, but presumably he's running against Donald Trump, who has been somebody who has tried to effectively, violently overturn the outcome of an election. I don't think anybody has been more direct about the need to protect democracy than Joe Biden. It's frustrating and disappointing to see somebody like Congressman Phillips try to use this as a moment to raise his own profile.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about and we are standing by to hear from President Biden in his first campaign speech of 2024 in a battleground state, the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is near Valley Forge, whatever that means. We're back in a moment. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have some breaking political news, we are awaiting President Biden's first campaign speech of 2024. He will speak about what he sees as the threat to democracy posed by Donald Trump.

Joining us now to discuss former Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger. He served on the January 6th Select Committee.

Congressman, good to see you.

I want to ask you about President Biden's speech in a moment, but I do wonder what is going through your mind as we approach three years since the insurrection, a grim memorial that we will note tomorrow. Three years. What are you - what's going through your mind now?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, first off, it feels like yesterday, so that's the first off. But it's a little bit of sadness - well, a lot of sadness because I mean on January 7th 2021, if you would have told me that not only would Donald Trump be running for president again, I wouldn't have believed you, that he'd be the front runner, I wouldn't have believed you and that there's a good chance he could get reelected, I wouldn't have believed you. And it just - I think the thing I'm mourning is the death of truth, the loss of truth and the tribalism in this country that is holding some people in this cult so strongly that they're unwilling to say what's before their very eyes simply because it means they're going to lose their status as part of the tribe and that's what we have to break. That's going to be the fight for the next year or so.

But yes, I think it's a lot of sadness in my heart.

TAPPER: He is but a mortal man, to what do you attribute this? Why is he able to keep this hold on not just to voters, but on the likes of Fox that lost $787 billion - point five billion dollars because they were adhering to his lies and all those Republican leaders and members of Congress that were friends and colleagues of yours.

KINZINGER: Yes. I think we've underestimated the desire of people to like own the libs or own the left in his base. And when he comes along and he says these things that are so completely outrageous that by the way, we've become numb to them. I mean, we spend a lot of time, as we should, talking about Nikki Haley's comment about the Civil War. But Donald Trump laps her in a period of a week, five different times saying stuff even far crazier. We've just become numb to it.

And I think there is a side of that tribal belonging on the right that just loves that, that your reverence, it's really damaging. They don't care that it's damaging. And my former colleagues, Jake, all they care about is being in the tribe. They're the biggest followers that exist and frankly, in a position that requires leaders and leadership.

When nobody leads, it's easy to take Liz Cheney, me, Mitt Romney and cast us out and say that we're an aberration. And unfortunately, we are aberrations at this moment. And that's all done to chill the rest of the people from doing the same thing, because they want to stay in the tribe. And this is, again, this is where there has to be an alliance between the sane right, the center and the left to say, look, we've got all these differences in what we believe. We're going to have those for the next hundred years if we get through November and that's the number one goal here.

TAPPER: As a member of the January 6th Select House Committee, you have seen firsthand the evidence, the videos, the text, you've sat in the interviews. What do you say to a voter out there who's still undecided?


KINZINGER: Well, it's simply this. I mean, do you believe in democracy and self-government or don't you? I mean, I get it. You may not like tax rates. You may be upset about the border. We all have issues we don't agree with on this administration. But if Donald Trump gets in, he's not going to put people that defend the Constitution around him. He's going to put people around him that defend him.

I mean, this is what happens. He has such low self-esteem that he has to have his cup filled with praise every day. You see it in videos he puts out from Mar-A-Lago. And so he's going to know this time and have people around him that are going to say, and they're truly going to say, I'm not going to worry about the Constitution, Mr. President. I'll do whatever you want me to do. And this - the ideas of guardrails of democracy, the guardrails of democracy are people holding to their oath. This guy has already shown he doesn't care about his oath and he'll put people around him that don't care either.

So if your kids - if you want to leave your kids a country better off than the one you inherited, fight within a functioning political system. Don't go outside of the system and put Trump back in, because I'm going to tell you, you're going to destroy the future of self- governance in this country and I truly believe that.

TAPPER: For those watching right now on the right side of your screen, that is a county commissioner named Joseph Douglas - Justin Douglas, rather, who's introducing President Biden. When President Biden starts speaking, we'll bring that to you.

Congressman Kinzinger, do you think Donald Trump is a threat to democracy? And if so, how is he a threat to democracy itself?

KINZINGER: Yes, I certainly think he is. Look, whenever you violate norms in democracy, you never get that norm back. Donald Trump has said clearly, sometimes you have to ignore the Constitution or suspend the Constitution. When? Not when it's the defense of the country, when it's the defense of him.

He's made it clear, he's not running to make America strong or a fierce nation. He said he's running to be people's retribution. He has turned fellow Americans into the chief enemy of his movement. So when you have that set up, and frankly, people embracing illiberalism, embracing authoritarian, not ashamed to take that label anymore, self- governance can't survive because the basic contract for self- governance, Jake, is that we know that we can vote. That vote counts and the winner wins.

He sullied that and destroyed people's faith in that very basic compact we have to have when he convinced a quarter of the country or more that the election was stolen. If you believe the election system doesn't work and you truly believe that, you cannot have a self- governing system because you believe your voice is being stifled. It is a lie, but it's a lie to benefit one man, Donald Trump, because he's scared he's going to be put in jail.

TAPPER: If it ends up being a Trump-Biden rematch, and we don't know that it is yet, of course, the first votes in the Iowa caucus and the Republican Iowa caucus are going to be cast in a few days, but if it ends up Trump versus Biden, who do you think wins?

KINZINGER: I mean, I think it's close, unfortunately. I think there are real issues that are unfortunately overriding the issue of democracy. The border is one of those, by the way. The Democrats have got to quit pretending like they're blowing the border out of proportion. They have in the past, but this is a serious issue. I think it's going to be close.

Any black swan event can happen. We've got the trials coming up. There's - it's going to be a year where (inaudible) ...

TAPPER: Here comes President Biden ...

KINZINGER: ... sure.

TAPPER: ... and the First Lady. Congressman Kinzinger, thanks so much for joining us. We're going to listen in to the speech right now live from Blue Bell in beautiful Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Let's listen to President Biden.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Well, thank you.

CROWD: Four more years.

BIDEN: Thank you.

CROWD: Four more years. Four more years. Four more years.

BIDEN: Thank you. Please. Thank you. Please, thank you very, very much.

Today, the topic of my speech today is deadly serious and I think it needs to be made at the outset of this campaign.

In the winter of 1777, it was harsh and cold as the Continental Army marched to Valley Forge. Gen. George Washington knew he faced the most daunting of tasks, to fight and win a war against the most powerful empire in existence in the world at the time. His mission was clear: liberty, not conquest. Freedom. Not domination. National independence. Not individual glory.

America made a vow: Never again would we bow down to a king.


Months ahead would be incredibly difficult. But Gen. Washington knew something in his bones. Something about the spirit of the troops he was leading. Something, something about the soul of the nation he was struggling to be born. In his general order, he predicted, and I quote, "With one heart and one mind, with fortitude and with patience, they would overcome every difficulty, the troops he was leading. And they did. They did."

This army that lacked blankets and food, clothes and shoes. This army, whose march left bloody bare footprints in the snow. This ragtag army made up of ordinary people.

Their mission, George Washington declared, was nothing less than a sacred cause. That was the phrase he used. A sacred cause. Freedom, Liberty. Democracy. American democracy.

I just visited the grounds of Valley Forge. I've been there a number of times since the time I was a Boy Scout years ago.

It's the very site that I think every American should visit, because it tells the story of the pain and the suffering and the true patriotism it took to make America.

Today, we gather in a new year, some 246 years later, just one day before January 6, a day forever seared in our memory because it was on that day that we nearly lost America, lost it all.

Today, we're here to answer the most important of questions. Is democracy still America's sacred cause? I mean it.

This is not rhetorical, academic or hypothetical. Whether democracy is still America's sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time.

And it's what the 2024 election is all about.

The choice is clear.

Donald Trump's campaign is about him, not America, not you.

Donald Trump's campaign is obsessed with the past, not the future. He's willing to sacrifice our democracy, put himself in power.

Our campaign is different. For me and Kamala, our campaign is about America. It's about you. It's about every age and background that occupy this country.

It's about the future we're going to continue to build together. And our campaign is about preserving and strengthening our American democracy.

Three years ago tomorrow, we saw with our own eyes the violent mob stormed the United States Capitol. It was almost in disbelief as you first turned on the television.

For the first time in our history, insurrectionists had come to stop the peaceful transfer, transfer of power in America. First time.

Smashing windows, shattering doors, attacking the police.

Outside, gallows were erected as the MAGA crowd chanted, "Hang Mike Pence."

Inside, they hunted for Speaker Pelosi. The House was chanting as they marched through and smashed windows, "Where's Nancy?"

Over 140 police officers were injured.

Jill and I attended the funeral of police officers who died as a result of the events of that day.

Because Donald - because of Donald Trump's lies, they died because these lies brought a mob to Washington.

He promised it would be wild. And it was.

He told the crowd to "fight like hell" and all hell was unleashed.

He promised he would write them, write them, everything they did. He would be side by side with them.

Then, as usual, he left the dirty work to others.

He retreated to the White House.

As America was attacked from within, Donald Trump watched on TV in a private, small dining room off my oval - off the Oval Office.

The entire nation watched in horror.

The whole world watched in disbelief.

And Trump did nothing.

Members of his staff, members of his family. Republican leaders who were under attack at that very moment pled with him.

Act. Call off the mob. Imagine had he gone out and said, "Stop."

Still, Trump did nothing.

It was among the worst derelictions of duty by a president in American history.


An attempt to overturn a free and fair election by force and violence. A record 81 million people voted for my candidacy and to end his presidency. Trump lost the popular vote by 7 million. Trump's claims about the 2020 election never could stand up in court.

Trump lost 60 court cases, 60. Trump lost the Republican-controlled states. Trump lost before a Trump-appointed judge and then judges.

And Trump lost before the United States Supreme Court. All of it, he lost. Trump lost recount after recount after recount in state after state.

But in desperation and weakness, Trump and his MAGA followers went after election officials who ensured your power as a citizen would be heard. These public servants had their lives forever upended by attacks and death threats for simply doing their jobs.

In Atlanta, Georgia, a brave Black mother and her daughter, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, were doing their jobs as election workers. Until Donald Trump and his MAGA followers targeted and threatened them, forcing them from their homes and unleashing racist vitriol on them.

Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was just hit with a $148 million judgment for cruelty and defamation that he inflicted against them. Other state and local elected officials across the country faced similar personal attacks.

In addition, Fox News agreed to pay a record $787 million for the lies they told about voter fraud. Let's be clear about the 2020 election. Trump exhausted every legal avenue available to him to overturn the election. Every one. But the legal path just took Trump back to the truth. That I had won the election and he was a loser.

Well, so knowing how his mind works now, he had one he had one act left. One desperate act available to him. The violence of January the 6th.

And since that day, more than 1,200 people have been charged for their assault on the Capitol. Nearly 900 of them have been convicted or pled guilty. Collectively, to date, they have been sentenced to more than 840 years in prison.

And what's Trump done? Instead of calling them criminals, he's called these insurrectionists patriots. They're patriots. And he promised to pardon them if he returns to office.

Trump said that there was a lot of love on January the 6th. The rest of the nation, including law enforcement, saw a lot of hate and violence. One Capitol Police officer called it a medieval battle. That same officer called vile raid was called vile racist names. He said he was more afraid in the capital of the United States of America. In the chambers than when he was fighting as a soldier in the war in Iraq. He was more afraid inside the halls of Congress than fighting in the war in Iraq.

Trying to rewrite the facts of January 6th. Trump is trying to steal history. The same way he tried to steal the election.

But he -- we knew the truth because we saw it with our own eyes. So it wasn't like something a story being told. It was on television repeatedly. We saw it with our own eyes. Trump's mob wasn't a peaceful protest. It was a violent assault. They were insurrectionists, not patriots. They weren't there to uphold the Constitution. They were there to destroy the Constitution.

Trump won't do what an American president must do. He refuses to denounce political violence. So hear me clearly.

I'll say what Donald Trump won't. Political violence is never, ever acceptable in the United States political system. Never, never, never.


It has no place in a democracy. None. It can't be pro-insurrectionist and pro-American.

Trump and his MAGA supporters not only embrace political violence, but they laugh about it. At his rally, he jokes about an intruder whipped up by the big Trump lie, taking a hammer to Paul Pelosi's skull, and echoing the very same words used on January 6th, where's Nancy? And he thinks that's funny. He laughed about it.

What a sick... My God. I think it's despicable. Seriously.

It's not just for a president for any person to say that. But to say it to the whole world listening. When I was overseas -- anyway. Trump's assault on democracy isn't just part of his past. It's what

he's promising for the future. He's being straightforward. He's not hiding the ball.

His first rally for the 2024 campaign opened with a choir of January 6th insurrectionists singing from prison on a cell phone. While images of the January 6th ride played on the big screen behind him at his rally.

Can you believe that? This is like something out of a fairy tale. Bad fairy tale. Trump began his 2024 campaign by glorifying the failed violent insurrectionists insurrection on our Capitol.

The guy who claims law and order, sows lawlessness and disorder. Trump's not concerned about your future. I promise you.

Trump is now promising a full-scale campaign of revenge and retribution. His words for some years to come. They were his words, not mine.

He went on to say he'd be a dictator on day one. I mean, if I write in a book of fiction, I said an American president said that. And not in jest.

He called in, I quote, the termination, quote, this is a quote, the termination of all the rules, regulation and articles, even those found in the U.S. Constitution, should be terminated if it's his will. It's really kind of hard to believe. Even found in the Constitution? He could terminate?

He's threatened the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the death penalty. Says he should be put to death because the chairman put his oath to the Constitution ahead of his personal loyalty to Trump. This is coming from a president who called when he visited cemeteries, called dead soldiers, suckers and losers. Remember that?

Sometimes I'm really happy the Irish in me can't be seen. It was right around the time I was at Beau's grave, Tommy. How dare he? Who in God's name do you think he is?

With former aides, Trump plans to invoke the Insurrections Act -- the Insurrection Act, which will allow him to deploy -- was not allowed to do in our service -- allow him to deploy U.S. military forces on the streets of America. He said it.

He calls those who oppose him vermin. He talks about the blood of America as being poisoned. Echoing the same exact language used in Nazi Germany. He proudly posts on social media the words that best describe his 2024 campaign, quote, revenge, quote, power, and quote, dictatorship. There's no confusion about who Trump is and what he intends to do.

I placed my hand on our family Bible and I swore an oath on the very same steps of the Capitol, just 14 days after the attack on January the 6th.


As I looked out over the capital city, whose streets were lined with National Guard to prevent another attack, I saw an American that had been pushed to the brink, America that had been pushed to the brink.

But I felt enormous pride, not in winning, I felt enormous pride in America because American democracy had been tested. American democracy had held together. When Trump had seen weakness in our democracy and continued to talk about it, I saw strength, your strength, it's not hyperbole, your strength, your integrity, American strength and integrity.

Ordinary citizens, state election officials, the American judicial system had put the Constitution first, and sometimes at their peril, at their peril. Because of them, because of you, the will of the people prevailed, not the anger of the mob or the appetites of one man.

When the attack on January 6th happened, there was no doubt about the truth. At the time, even Republican members of Congress and Fox News commentators publicly and privately condemned the attack.

As one Republican senator said, Trump's behavior was embarrassing and humiliating for the country. But now that same senator and those same people have changed their tune. As time has go on -- gone on, politics, fear, money, all have intervened.

And now these MAGA voices who know the truth about Trump on January 6th have abandoned the truth and abandoned democracy. They made their choice. Now the rest of us, Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans, we have to make our choice.

I know mine, and I believe I know America's. We'll defend the truth, not give in to the big lie. We'll embrace the Constitution and the Declaration, not abandon it.

We'll honor the sacred cause of democracy, not walk away from it. Today, I make this sacred pledge to you. The defense, protection, and preservation of American democracy will remain as it has been the central cause of my presidency.

America, as we begin this election year, we must be clear, democracy is on the ballot. Your freedom is on the ballot. Yes, we'll be voting on many issues.

On the freedom to vote and have your vote counted, and the freedom of choice, the freedom to have a fair shot, the freedom from fear. And we'll debate and disagree. Without democracy, no progress is impossible.

Think about it. The alternative to democracy is dictatorship. The rule of one, not the rule of we, the people.

That's what the soldiers of Valley Forge understood. And so was me. We have to understand it as well. We've been blessed so long with a strong, stable democracy, it's easy to forget why so many before us risked their lives and strengthened democracy, what our lives would be without it. Democracy means having the freedom to speak your mind, to be who you are, to be who you want to be. Democracy is about being able to bring about peaceful change.

Democracy. Democracy is how we've opened the doors of opportunity wider and wider with each successive generation, notwithstanding our mistakes. But if democracy falls, we'll lose that freedom.

We'll lose the power of we, the people, to shape our destiny. If you doubt me, look around the world, travel with me as I meet with other heads of state throughout the world. Look at the authoritarian leaders and dictators Trump says he admires. He out loud says he admires. I won't go through them all, it'll take too long.

Look, remember how he first, where he refers to what he calls love letter exchanges between he and the dictator of North Korea?


Those women and men out there in the audience ever fought for the American military. Good you ever believe you'd hear a president say something like that? His admiration for Putin. I could go on and look at what these autocrats are doing to limit freedom in their countries.

They're limiting freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom to assemble, women's rights, LGBTQ rights. People are going to jail, so much more. It's true, the push and pull of American history is not a fairy tale.

Every stride forward in America has met with ferocious backlash many times. From those who fear progress and those who exploit that fear for their own personal gain. From those who traffic in lies told for power and profit.

For those who are driven by grievance and grift, consumed by conspiracy and victimhood. From those who seek to bury history and ban books. Everything can be in a political event, talking about book banning for presidential in a presidential election.

The choice and contest between those forces, those competing forces, between solidarity and division is perennial. But this time it's so different. You can't have a contest if you see politics as an all out war instead of a peaceful way to resolve our differences.

All out war is what Trump wants. That's why he doesn't understand the most fundamental truth about this country. Unlike other nations on earth, America is not built on ethnicity, religion, geography. We're the only nation in the history of the world built on an idea. Not hyperbole, built on an idea. We hold these truths to be self-evident.

That all men and women are created equal. It's an idea. Declared in the declaration, created in a way that we viewed everybody as equal and should be treated equal throughout their lives. We've never fully lived up to that. We have a long way to go. But we've never walked away from the idea. We've never walked away from it.

And I promise you, I will not let Donald Trump or the MAGA Republicans have forced us to walk away from it.

We're living in an era where a determined minority is doing everything in his power to try to destroy our democracy for their own agenda. The American people know it. And they're standing bravely in the breach.

Remember after 2020, January 6th insurrection to undo the election in which more Americans had voted than any other in American history? America saw the threat posed to the country.

And they voted them out. In 2022, historic midterm election, in state after state, election after election, the election deniers were defeated. Now in 2024, Trump is running as the denier-in-chief. The election denier-in-chief. Once again, he's saying he won't honor the results of the election if he loses.

Trump says he doesn't understand. Well, he still doesn't understand the basic truth. That is you can't love your country only when you win. You can't love your country only when you win.

But I'll keep my commitment to be president for all of America. Whether you voted for me or not, I've done it for the last three years and I'll continue to do it. Together, we can keep proving that America is still a country that believes in decency, dignity, honesty, honor, truth.

We still believe that no one, not even the president, is above the law. We still believe -- the vast majority of us still believe that everyone deserves a fair shot at making it. We're still a nation that gives hate no safe harbor.

I tell you from my experience working with leaders around the world, and I mean this sincerely, not a joke, that America is still viewed as the beacon of democracy for the world. I can't tell you how many, how many world leaders, and I know all of them, virtually all of them, grab my arm in private and say, he can't win. Tell me. No, my country will be at risk.


Think of how many countries, Tommy, you know that are on the edge. Imagine. We still believe in we the people. That includes all of us, not some of us.

Let me close with this. In a cold winter of 1777, George Washington and his American troops of Valley Forge waged a battle on behalf of a revolutionary idea that everyday people, like where I come from and the vast majority of you, not a king or a dictator, that everyday people can govern themselves without a king or a dictator. In fact, in the rotunda of the Capitol, there's a giant painting of General George Washington, not President Washington. And he is resigning his commission as commander in chief of the Continental Army. The European king at the time said after he won the revolution, now's the time for him to declare his kingship.

But instead, the mob that attacked the Capitol, waving Trump flags and Confederate flags, stormed right past that portrait. That image of George Washington gave him no pause, but it should have. The artist who painted that portrait memorialized that moment because he said it was, quote, one of the highest moral lessons ever given to the world. End of quote.

George Washington was at the height of his power. Having just defeated the most powerful empire on earth, could have held on to power as long as he wanted. He could have made himself not a future president, but a future monarch, in fact. And by the way, when he got elected president, he could have stayed for two, three, four, five terms until he died. But that wasn't the America he and the American troops at Valley Forge had fought for.

In America, genuine leaders, democratic leaders with a small D, don't hold on to power relentlessly. Our leaders return power to the people and they do it willingly because that's the deal. You do your duty. You serve your country.

And ours is a country worthy of service as many Republican presidents and Democratic presidents have shown over the years. We're not perfect, but at our best, we face on -- we face head on the good, the bad, the truth of who we are. We look in the mirror and ultimately never pretend we're something we're not.

That's what great nations do. And we're a great nation. We're the greatest nation on the face of the earth. We really are.

That's the America I see in our future. We get up. We carry on. We never bow. We never bend. We speak of possibilities, not carnage. We're not weighed down by grievances. We don't foster fear. We don't walk around as victims.

We take charge of our destiny. We get our job done with our people -- with the help of the people we find in America who find their place in a changing world and dream and build a future that not only they, but all people deserve a shot at.

We don't believe, none of you believe America is failing. We know America is winning. That's American patriotism. It's not winning because of Joe Biden. It's winning. This is the first national election since January 6th, insurrection placed a dagger at the throat of American democracy since that moment. We all know who Donald Trump is.

The question we have to answer is who are we? That's what's at stake. Who are we? In the year ahead, as you talk to your family and friends, cast your ballots, the power is in your hands. After all we've been through in our history, from independence to civil war, to two world wars, to a pandemic, to insurrection.

[15:55:00] I refuse to believe that in 2024, we Americans will choose to walk away from what's made us the greatest nation in the history of the world, freedom, liberty.

Democracy is still a sacred cause. And there's no country in the world, better positioned to lead the world than America. That's why I've said it many times, that's why I've never been more optimistic about our future. And I've been doing this a hell of a long time.

Just to remember who we are, with patience and fortitude, with one heart, we are the United States of America, for God's sake. I mean it.

There is nothing -- I believe in every fiber, there is nothing beyond our capacity if we act together and decently with one another. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I mean it.

We're the only nation in the world that's come out of every crisis stronger than when we went into that crisis. That was true yesterday, it is true today. And I guarantee you, it will be true tomorrow.

God bless you all and may God protect our troops. Thank you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You've been listening to President Biden delivering his very first campaign speech of election year 2024.

There's the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden. His speech comes on the eve of the solemn anniversary of three years since the January 6th insurrection. He's thanking the crowd right there in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, not far from Valley Forge, the battleground that he invoked.

Biden called his presidential campaign one that is about America. He tried to contrast his Republican rival, Donald Trump's campaign, as one that is instead about Trump and somebody who is obsessed with the past instead of the future. We should note, Biden will try to use another historic site for a speech on Monday.

He'll be in Charleston, South Carolina, where he will speak at Mother Emanuel AME Church. That's the, of course, historically black church where nine people were killed after a racist gunman opened fire on a Bible study group in 2015.

My panel's back with me. David Chalian, Big Picture, what did you make of the speech?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Much like we talked going into it, he's very effective on this, as Kate said. You can see that the president feels this stuff in his bones, and so that makes for a better speech moment. I thought two things were really interesting to watch going forward.

One, after he did the litany of the anniversary of commemorating the anniversary of January 6th, he said, this isn't just about the past. This is what Donald Trump is promising to do again as president, making it about this campaign, not just reflecting on January 6th, but about the very choice before voters here, and that he's promising to do many of these things again. That's going to be a constant theme throughout.

And then I thought it was interesting, Jake, in the contrast, he said, Donald Trump wants all-out war, not the peaceful process of self- government and electing a president. And I was just thinking that moment, and now that's going to force Joe Biden into an all-out war, because that is how Donald Trump plays on terrain here, and we're about to enter this election season. And I think he's right. Donald Trump does prefer all-out war when it comes to this.

And I guess my question about the Biden candidacy going forward is, is he going to meet him on that battlefield in every twist and turn of it? Because you can't ignore somebody who's inviting you into an all- out war. And while this is a big thought speech and connects to the fundamental values that Biden believes about the country and is selling to the country, it is going to require that hand-to-hand combat from now through November through a whole host of issues, not just this one.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST :It was really personal though, wasn't it? I mean, we haven't heard Joe Biden get this personal about Donald Trump before. Who in God's name does he think he is? He was trying to steal history, that, you know, he's all about revenge and grievance, and what a sick blank, as he called him.

And, you know, as you've all said, I mean, you could tell Joe Biden feels this in his bones, and maybe this is the reason he's running again. But I found it to be more personal about Donald Trump than I've ever heard him in the past.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, FORMER BIDEN WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think he certainly didn't shy away from calling. He did not shy away from calling Donald Trump out.

I do think though he was really making -- he was making an aggressive argument about how Donald Trump's actions are dangerous and threatening.