- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2023

President Biden will award the Presidential Citizens Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors, to 12 people for their actions leading up to and during the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot during a White House ceremony Friday marking the second anniversary of the attack.  

Mr. Biden will deliver remarks during the ceremony recognizing those “who made exemplary contributions to our democracy” and who “demonstrated courage and selflessness during a moment of peril for our nation.”

The list of awardees includes U.S. Capitol and Washington Metropolitan Police, election workers, and state and local officials, the White House said.

Several law enforcement officers will receive the award for heroism in the face of pro-Trump citizens who stormed the capitol to protest what they saw as a stolen presidential election. U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died of natural causes one day after responding to the Capitol riot.

The list of U.S. Capitol Police officers also includes Eugene Goodman, who is credited with diverting rioters away from lawmakers as they evacuated; Harry Dunn, who faced racial slurs and harassment while defending the Capitol; Caroline Edwards, who was the first officer to be injured during the attack; and Aquilino Gonell, also injured during the protest.

Washington Metropolitan Police Officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges, both injured while defending the tunnel entrance to the Capitol from a flood of rioters, will also receive the award.

Congress has also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, its highest award, to the hundreds of officers to responded to the Capitol attack. 

Awardees also include several state election officials who resisted pressure to overturn the 2020 presidential election: Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Philadelphia County Board of Elections Commissioner Al Schmidt.

Shay Moss and Ruby Freeman, the mother-daughter pair of election workers from Fulton County, Georgia, who have faced threats and intimidation following the election, will also receive the medal.

Friday’s ceremony will be the first time Mr. Biden awards the Citizens Medal.

Mr. Biden marked the first anniversary of the attack last year in a dramatic speech from Statuary Hall in the Capitol where he offered a searing criticism of his predecessor and a rallying cry for Democrats. 

Alluding to former President Donald Trump, Mr. Biden said the rioters went to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to “rage” in the “service of a man.”

“Those who stormed this Capitol, and those who instigated and incited, and those who called on them to do so, held a dagger at the throat of America — at American democracy,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden used that theme to campaign for Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections, warning that the “soul of America” hung in the balance under threat by an extreme group of “MAGA Republicans.”

The president has struck a less divisive tone in recent weeks as he enters the back half of his first term under a GOP-controlled House.

Republican House leaders have moved to dismantle what many in the conference viewed as partisan relics of the riot. 

In one of their first acts of business after taking control of the chamber, Republicans removed the metal detectors surrounding the House floor, which were put in place by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, days after the attack — a move many Republicans dismissed as theatrics.

Nonetheless, a tinge of partisan vitriol stemming from the attack lingers in Washington.

In a parting shot before concluding its 18-month investigation into the attack, the Democrat-led House Jan. 6 committee voted unanimously last month to recommend that federal prosecutors pursue charges against the former president. The panel recommended charges of inciting the attack on the Capitol, obstructing an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the government, and making false statements about presidential electors.

The recommendations mark a rare escalation by Congress against a former president for actions taken while he was in office. The referral also places the Justice Department, which is conducting its own investigation into the Capitol riot and recently appointed a special counsel, in uncharted political territory.

The former president would face up to 10 years in prison for inciting or assisting an insurrection, the most serious charge proposed by the committee, should the Justice Department decide to prosecute. The charge also would bar Mr. Trump, who has announced a new bid for the White House in 2024, from holding public office again.

Mr. Trump said the committee was specifically trying to derail his election bid.

He said Democrats “are out to keep me from running for president because they know I’ll win and that this whole business of prosecuting me is just like impeachment was — a partisan attempt to sideline me and the Republican Party.”

The anniversary is likely to be overshadowed on Capitol Hill this year by House Republicans’ ongoing struggle to elect a speaker.

The revolt by hardline conservatives against Rep. Kevin McCarthy, California Democrat, shows no sign of letting up, despite a series of votes on the House floor followed by hours of closed-door negotiations.

Democrats say the ongoing battle within the party is a reflection of the extremism that led to the Capitol riot.

“Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection. It is a dark day for the country, but the pinnacle of what has become of the Republican Party,” House Minority Whip Katherine Clark, Massachusetts Democrat, said Thursday.

“Our message to the American people is that House Democrats stand together with you,” she said. “We will stand together to fight for progress, to put your voice back in the halls of Congress, and for our democracy.”

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide

Sponsored Stories