On the anniversary of the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump, Vice President Kamala Harris said the country remains at a “pivot point” but that the violent day marked not only the fragility of American democracy, but also its strength.
In an interview with WTOP Capitol Hill correspondent Mitchell Miller, Harris offered praise for Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Liz Cheney and former Vice President Dick Cheney. The latter two were the only Republicans to stand in the House chamber Thursday as a moment of silence was held for D.C. and Capitol Police officers who died in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack.
Harris recalled her own experience a year ago when she was still a sitting senator and vice president-elect. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol to certify the results of the 2020 election just hours after the Capitol was ransacked.
“Vice President Mike Pence courageously walked in that chamber and did his job, and did the job of upholding the responsibilities that each of us have sworn to uphold, to follow through on our constitutional priorities,” Harris said. “I commend him for that. He did his job.”
Amid the melee, some of the rioters threatened to hang Pence, and a gallows was erected outside.
Asked about the Cheneys being the only Republicans to stand on the House floor for Thursday’s moment of silence, Harris said, “I applaud them for doing that. Plain and simple.”
Harris added, “There are moments where we must all — and I think history will judge us based on whether we had the courage to — stand for our country and the values and the ideals we hold dear. None of us has ever said — I certainly have never said — that we, by any means, are perfect. Flawed though we may be, imperfect though we may be, there are these moments where we must all, as Americans, stand in recognition of the importance of our democracy and the ideals upon which we were founded.”
Liz Cheney is the chair of the House committee investigating the attack.
When asked if Pence should testify before the committee to answer questions about Jan. 6, Harris said she didn’t want to weigh in, saying that as a former federal prosecutor, she didn’t want to speak to an ongoing investigation.
Both Harris and President Joe Biden spoke from the Capitol Thursday to mark the anniversary. In a forceful address, Biden accused Trump and his supporters of holding a “dagger at the throat of democracy.”
“For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” Biden said. “You can’t love your country only when you win.”
A year after what happened, Harris said sees vulnerability — and resilience.
“I do believe this moment is requiring us to understand how precious our democracy is, both in terms of its fragility, but in terms of its strength, when we, as the people of our nation, fight to keep it intact,” she said.
Most Republican leaders and lawmakers avoided the day’s ceremonies and accused Biden and Democrats of politicizing the insurrection.
As the country enters the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic amid questions about how the Biden administration has handled the current omicron surge, Harris continued urging Americans to get vaccinated, receive booster shots and wear face masks in public settings.
“It is indisputable at this point that being vaccinated, being boosted, will essentially save your life,” Harris said. “Over 90% of the people who are in hospitals today for serious effects of COVID were not vaccinated.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report