WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a singular message for Americans and the world on the eve of the anniversary of the horrific attack on the Capitol:
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, steps from where a mob loyal to Donald Trump laid siege to the building, Pelosi said it’s time for the country to turn to its “better angels,” draw from history and ensure a day like Jan. 6 never happens again.
"Make no mistake, our democracy was on the brink of catastrophe," Pelosi told the AP.
“Democracy won that night," she said. "These people, because of the courageous work of the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police and others, they were deterred in their action to stop the peaceful transfer of power. They lost.”
The speaker will lead Congress on Thursday in a day of remembrance at the Capitol, with President Joe Biden speaking in the morning, and historians and lawmakers sharing remembrances throughout the day — though few Republicans are expected to attend.
The deadly insurrection stunned the country, and the world, as rioters ransacked the Capitol, some in hand-to-hand combat with police, after a defeated President Trump exhorted them to fight as Congress was certifying the Biden’s election.
Pelosi said no one could have imagined a U.S. president calling for an insurrection, but there’s now an “enormous civic lesson learned as to what a president is capable of,” she said.
“I think now people are alerted to the fact that there can be rogue presidents."
The California congresswoman, who made history 15 years ago as the first female speaker of the House -- and has become one of the most powerful leaders ever to have held the gavel -- said she bears “absolutely no sense of responsibility” for the current divisions in Congress, or the country.
After having twice led the House to impeach Trump, she said her message to those who assaulted the Capitol — and the millions of Americans who backed Trump and may support him again — is that they were lied to. Countless court cases and investigations have shown no evidence of voter fraud that could have tipped the election, as he claims.
“They may have thought that was right,” she said. ”But they were lied to by the president of the United States."
For that, she said, “he should be ashamed.”
Sitting beneath a portrait of George Washington, Pelosi drew heavily on the founders' vision for a country where Americans would have many differences but rely on common sense to resolve them.
She drew on Abraham Lincoln’s time -- insisting on constructing the dome of the Capitol despite naysayers during the Civil War-- to keep the country together.
“We cannot shirk our responsibility. We have the power and we have the responsibility and we will live up to that to keep our country together," she said.
“Let’s hope that we never elect a president who will incite an insurrection on the Congress of the United States."
Looking back on the night of Jan. 6 after the riot, Pelosi said she is most proud of the decision congressional leaders made, once the Capitol was cleared of the mob, to quickly return to certify the election results.
She hopes to “soon” reopen the mostly shuttered Capitol -- a "symbol of democracy to the world,“ now closed longer than any other time in its history — once the coronavirus pandemic wanes and the physician’s office signals it is safe.
And Pelosi urged Americans to look ahead, not back.
“The future is America’s resilience, America’s greatness," she said. "America will always prevail and that we will survive — even what we went through last year.”
Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press