Trump Disregards Democracy and Jan. 6 At First Presidential Debate

Donald Trump and Joe Biden stand at CNN labeled podiums.

At the first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump traded barbs on some of the biggest issues facing Americans today: the economy, climate change, immigration policy, abortion and foreign affairs, among other topics. 

But throughout the 90-minute debate, in which Trump lied in just about every one of his responses and Biden stumbled through some answers due to an apparent cold, one key theme emerged: Trump is denying history when it comes to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and disregarding democracy. “Let’s turn to the issue of Democracy,” moderator Jake Tapper said before asking Trump, “What do you say to voters who believe you violated [your] oath through your actions and inaction on January 6th and worry that you’ll do it again?”

Trump, predictably, dodged the question by first saying that he didn’t “think that too many people believed that” and then falsely claimed that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) both declined an offer to deploy the National Guard when the insurrection broke out. According to the Associated Press, the decision to deploy the National Guard to the U.S. Capitol lies with the Capitol Police Board — a coalition made up of the House Sergeant at Arms, the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Architect of the Capitol. While the House Sergeant at Arms reports to the House Speaker, the Senate counterpart reports to the Senate Majority Leader who, at the time, was Sen. Mitch McConnell (R). Regardless, the Board made the decision, not Pelosi nor D.C. Mayor Bowser. 

But at no point during Trump’s answer did he address his role in facilitating the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol during the certification of the election. In fact, Trump went on to criticize Biden for the U.S. Department of Justice’s ongoing prosecution of the hundreds of people charged for their role in the attack. He said that “what they’ve done to some people that are so innocent, you ought to be ashamed of yourself,” and went on to repeat a false claim that many of them were “ushered” into the Capitol by police. 

In response to Trump’s false claims and deflection about his role in the Jan. 6 attack, Biden called the former president a “whiner” for not accepting the results of the 2020 election and pointed out the litany of charges he faces for his actions on, and leading up to, that day. Trump has been indicted for a litany of crimes for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia and Washington, D.C., with his allies and some fake electors being indicted for aiding his efforts in Arizona and Nevada.

Earlier this month, Trump was convicted of 34 charges related to $130,000 of “hush money” that his former fixer, attorney Michael Cohen, paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election, to keep an alleged affair from going public. It’s unclear what sort of sentence Trump will receive for that conviction, but on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court will issue its ruling in the anticipated presidential immunity case, which will ultimately decide if Trump can be held liable for crimes committed in office — like his role in the Jan. 6 attack. 

At the end of the debate, one of the last questions posed to Trump was whether he would accept the results of the 2024 election if he lost. He evaded the question three times, before begrudgingly saying that “if the election is fair, free” — and then trailed off saying that the only reason he is running for president again is because Biden indicted him “because I was his opponent.”