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Joe Biden Says European Leaders Feared Strength of Their Own Democracies After Jan. 6: ‘Everybody Looks to Us’

At Biden’s first G7 summit, France and Germany confronted him with concerns that the "leading democracy" was under threat. "I said, 'America’s back,'" Biden recalled, to which one responded: "For how long?"

<p>Guido Bergmann/Bundesregierung via Getty</p> President Joe Biden walks on the White House grounds with then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel on July 15, 2021

Guido Bergmann/Bundesregierung via Getty

President Joe Biden walks on the White House grounds with then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel on July 15, 2021

President Joe Biden is remembering how the world reacted in the months after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, when he was still settling in as the nation's new commander-in-chief.

At that year's G7 summit — an annual meeting that consists of seven democratically elected heads of state and two European Union representatives — Biden said he was confronted about the message that Jan. 6, 2021, sent to democracies around the world.

"I went to the G7 meeting ... I sat down and I said, 'America's back,'" Biden recalled Thursday evening during an appearance with Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. "The French leader [Emmanuel Macron] looked at me and said, 'For how long?' It wasn't humorous, he was serious."

Related: 'Lock the Gallery Doors!': Congressman Describes Being Inside Capitol During Jan. 6 Riot

<p>LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty </p> President Joe Biden sits with fellow world leaders at his first G7 summit on June 11, 2021

LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty

President Joe Biden sits with fellow world leaders at his first G7 summit on June 11, 2021

Biden continued recounting the summit, saying that the "German chancellor" — who was Angela Merkel at the time — jumped in after Macron to try and put the situation in perspective.

According to Biden, the chancellor asked, "What would you think, Mr. President, if in fact you pick up the paper tomorrow and found out that in Great Britain, on the London Times, the headline says, Mob storms Parliament, breaks down the door to the House of Commons to protest the election and two bobbies were killed?"

Related: 4 Dead and 52 Arrested in Capitol Riots, Police Confirm: 'Shocking and Shameful Behavior'

"What would you think back in America? Think about that," he quoted her as saying. "What would you say if another democracy, not just a leading democracy, but another democracy went through this thing? What happened?"

Reflecting on his interaction with the world leaders and how it demonstrates the United States' duty to preserve democracy, Biden said, "The rest of the world looks to us like we are the essential nation, and that's not pounding our chest. Everybody in the world looks to us."

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images Lawmakers are evacuated on Jan. 6, 2021, as Donald Trump supporters breach the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the 2020 election from being certified
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images Lawmakers are evacuated on Jan. 6, 2021, as Donald Trump supporters breach the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the 2020 election from being certified

After Biden told his story on Thursday, President Obama joined in on how the Capitol riot hurt the United States' global reputation.

"What has always made America exceptional is this radical idea that you can get people from every corner of the globe, don't look alike, don't have the same name, worship differently, speak different languages, have different cultural traditions, and somehow they're going to come together under a set of rules," Obama said. "And we're all going to pledge that that's our creed: that we can live together, self-governing, have a representative government, peacefully transfer power."

"That ideal matters," the former president continued. "It matters to our children and their grandchildren, but it also matters around the world. When we see a de-emphasis, when America's not forthright in speaking on behalf of those ideals, you see backsliding around the world. You see authoritarians emboldened around the world. You see aggression around the world because there's no check."

Related: Obama, Clinton and Biden Reunite for Most Lucrative Political Fundraiser in U.S. History: Photos

<p>BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty</p> Presidents Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Bill Clinton reunite for a fundraiser and conversation at Radio City Music Hall on March 28, 2024

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty

Presidents Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Bill Clinton reunite for a fundraiser and conversation at Radio City Music Hall on March 28, 2024

The topic of the Capitol riot arose on Thursday when late-night host Stephen Colbert — who was moderating the conversation between Presidents Biden, Obama and Clinton — asked the president what was going through his mind on Jan. 6, 2021, as he prepared to assume control of a divided nation.

"We had no president on January the 6th," Biden began his response. "I was supposed to make a speech on the economy and I decided I couldn't remain silent. So what I did was, I made a speech about January the 6th, what was happening, and I said, 'There's an insurrection underway and it must be dealt with.' And I pleaded with [President Donald Trump] to stop and do his job, to call these people off."

Related: Trump and Kevin McCarthy Had a Screaming Match When President Refused to Call Off Capitol Rioters: Report

As the nation soon learned, Trump didn't tell his supporters to stand down until the damage had been done.

"He sat there in the dining room of the Oval Office for several hours and watched. Didn't do a damn thing," Biden said. "That's why I felt obliged — even though I wasn't sworn in yet, I was president-elect — but I went out and said, 'This is what we should be doing.' And laid it out."

Related: Trump 'Gleefully' Viewed Jan. 6 Insurrection on TV, 'Hitting Rewind' to Watch Again, Former Aide Says

Biden said that when he thinks of the November election, he sees it as a matter of democracy being "at stake," citing Trump's own comment that he would "be a dictator on day one" if elected president again.

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