Although US President Biden did not mention Donald Trump's name, he made clear whom he was talking about in a blistering portrait of a man he said tried to cheat his way out of defeat in the last presidential election.

Donald Trump immediately hit back at US President Joe Biden, accusing him of
Donald Trump immediately hit back at US President Joe Biden, accusing him of "political theatre". (AP)

US President Joe Biden has harshly criticised his predecessor Donald Trump and vowed to defend democracy on the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol riot.

In a dark, powerful address on Thursday, Biden called out Trump's effort to cheat and blasted the mob of the Republican's supporters who stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent certification of the election result.

"This was an armed insurrection," Biden said in his speech from Statuary Hall inside the Capitol.

"For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election. He tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power," Biden said.

'He values power over principle'

"The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election," Biden said. 

"He values power over principle."

During the assault on Congress, Trump was "sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours," Biden said, his anger clear. 

"He's a defeated former president."

READ MORE: US President Biden rejects bid by Trump to withhold January 6 documents

Trump hits back

Trump immediately hit back at Biden, accusing him of "political theatre".

Biden "used my name today to try to further divide America," Trump said in a statement.

"This political theater is all just a distraction for the fact Biden has completely and totally failed," Trump said.

In a statement issued immediately after Biden's speech, Trump accused the Democrat of seeking to "further divide America."

The day's commemorative events were also to feature a speech by the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and a prayer vigil on the steps of the Capitol.

However, such are the depths of division 12 months later that many senior Republicans didn't even show up.

The party's top lawmaker, Senator Mitch McConnell said January 6 had been a "dark day" but called it "stunning to see some Washington Democrats try to exploit this anniversary."

READ MORE: Trump's attorneys blame Democrats for 'hatred' against ex-president

READ MORE: Democrats say Capitol attackers acted on Trump's 'orders'

Source: TRTWorld and agencies