President Joe Biden took the oath of office Wednesday at an inauguration ceremony that was drastically different from years past due to the Covid-19 pandemic and security concerns following the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Bucking long-standing tradition, President Donald Trump skipped the inauguration and flew to Florida Wednesday morning.
Avril Haines Confirmed As Director Of National Intelligence
The Senate confirmed former CIA Deputy Director Avril Haines as the new director of national intelligence, making her the first Cabinet member of President Joe Biden to be confirmed by the Senate. Haines was confirmed by an overwhelming 84-10 vote, including the votes of newly sworn-in senators Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.). Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) began the new Senate’s business Wednesday afternoon by saying: “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.”
Biden Signs First Executive Orders, Says Trump’s Letter Was ‘Very Generous’
Sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, Biden signed his first slate of executive orders on Wednesday, including an order mandating masks be worn on federal property, affecting millions of federal workers, and a directive to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, which Trump pulled the U.S. out of. The president told reporters the letter Trump left him was “very generous” but declined to share details. “Because it was private, I won’t talk about it until I talk to him,” Biden said. “But it was generous.” Biden is expected to sign 17 executive orders on Wednesday, telling reporters, “There’s no time to start like today.”
Ossoff And Warnock Sworn In, Giving Democrats Control Of Senate
Sens. Jon and Raphael Warnock of Georgia were sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday afternoon, officially giving Democrats narrow control over the Senate.
Ossoff Ossoff and Warnock defeated former Georgia Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, splitting the Senate 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Harris serving as a tiebreaker. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is now the body’s majority leader.
Harris also swore in Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) on Wednesday, whom Gov. Gavin Newsom nominated to replace Harris after she won the vice presidency.
All three new senators represent significant milestones: Warnock is Georgia’s first Black senator, Ossoff is his state’s first Jewish senator and the youngest member of the Senate, and Padilla is California’s first Latino senator.
— Joe Walsh
Biden Family Arrives At White House
President Joe Biden and his family entered the White House a few minutes before 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
Accompanied by first lady Dr. Jill Biden and his children and grandchildren, the president marched to the White House on foot after finishing up an inaugural parade through the streets of Washington, D.C. He occasionally stopped to greet the handful of journalists and supporters who were allowed to gather, but he didn’t answer any reporters’ questions.
The Bidens were reportedly greeted inside by White House Chief Usher Timothy Harleth. The outgoing president traditionally invites their successor to the White House, but President Donald Trump decided to leave for Florida before Biden’s swearing-in.
Due to Covid-19 and elevated security rules, this year’s inaugural festivities were devoid of the throngs of supporters who normally crowd the streets of D.C.
— Joe Walsh
Biden Travels To White House With Military Escort — But No Crowds
President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden are headed to the White House alongside a parade of military bands, but due to strict security rules and the risk of Covid-19, this year’s festivities are missing the massive crowds that normally flood the streets of Washington, D.C. on Inauguration Day.
Biden’s team deliberately encouraged people to watch the inauguration at home this year, in an effort to prevent risky mass gatherings amid a pandemic. Plus, D.C. security has tightened considerably in recent weeks after a mob broke into the U.S. Capitol building. Police have effectively blocked off large swaths of downtown D.C., making it impossible for crowds to form.
In lieu of a packed inaugural parade, Biden’s team organized a virtual “Parade Across America” featuring comedians, musical guests and other celebrities.
— Joe Walsh
Biden Enters Office With 50 Federal Court Vacancies
A federal judge in Michigan announced her retirement Wednesday afternoon, leaving President Joe Biden with at least 50 vacancies across the federal court system on his first day in office.
Judge Victoria Roberts, appointed to the Eastern District of Michigan by former President Bill Clinton, told Biden on Wednesday that she’s shifting to senior status and leaving full-time service, adding to a list of 49 existing vacancies nationwide. Plus, Merrick Garland is expected to step down from the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals if the Senate confirms him as Biden’s attorney general, making his seat the 51st judicial vacancy.
Judges are nominated for lifetime appointments, making them a key way for presidents to leave a lasting mark on the federal judicial system. Former President Donald Trump appointed more than 200 judges over the last four years.
All of Biden’s district and appeals court nominees will need to earn a simple majority in the Senate, a task that became far easier when Democrats won narrow control over the Senate earlier this month.
— Joe Walsh
Biden Visits Arlington Cemetery With Bush, Obama And Clinton
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris led a post-inauguration wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, alongside three of the country’s five living former presidents.
Biden and Harris were accompanied at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by first lady Dr. Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and their wives also joined.
Biden’s predecessor — former President Donald Trump — left for Florida Wednesday morning and skipped all of the inauguration festivities. Plus, Jimmy Carter, the country’s oldest living former president at 96, announced earlier this month that he could not attend the inauguration.
Next, Biden will head to the White House.
— Joe Walsh
Biden Administration Staff Begin Setting Up White House Offices
Staffers for President Joe Biden have begun hanging new decorations and moving into their White House offices, hours after Biden was sworn in, CNN reported.
Wednesday morning, the West Wing was given a deep clean and plexiglass dividers were set up between desks, marking a new approach to Covid-19 safety.
— Joe Walsh
President Biden Prepares For Post-Inauguration Festivities
After being sworn in, President Joe Biden is proceeding to a visit to the U.S. Capitol building, a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and a procession to the White House.
At the Capitol, Biden signed an Inauguration Day proclamation and formalized his Cabinet nominations. Congress is skipping its traditional post-inauguration lunch with Biden due to public health concerns, but congressional leaders still presented him with commemorative gifts.
Later, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, accompanied by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and their wives. Former President Donald Trump will be a notable absence from the ceremony — he landed in Florida an hour before Biden’s swearing-in, making him the first president in over 150 years to skip his successor’s inauguration. Jimmy Carter, the oldest living former president at 96, also did not attend the inauguration.
After stopping by Arlington National Cemetery, Biden will be escorted through Washington to the White House. Due to Covid-19, the Biden team is eschewing the traditional inauguration parade, instead hosting a virtual “Parade Across America” featuring musical performances.
Trump held a sendoff rally early Wednesday morning at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Vice President Mike Pence did not attend his former boss’ farewell and chose to go to Biden’s inauguration.
— Joe Walsh
Twitter Transfers Presidential Twitter Account To Biden
As President Joe Biden takes control of the federal government, Twitter is transferring the keys to official White House accounts over to Biden’s administration.
Official accounts like @POTUS, @WhiteHouse and @VP are now controlled by Biden’s team as of Wednesday afternoon, shifting from a set of Twitter accounts set up by the Biden transition team, Twitter said in a statement. The Trump administration’s accounts have been archived.
Within minutes of his swearing-in, Biden’s team sent out its first tweet from the @POTUS account.
Meanwhile, Twitter has maintained an indefinite suspension of former President Donald Trump’s personal account for nearly two weeks, depriving the former commander-in-chief of his favorite mode of communication.
— Joe Walsh
President Biden Calls For Unity In Inauguration Speech Framed By Capitol Riots
President Joe Biden promised to push back against political polarization and extremism during his inauguration speech.
Biden decried the “riotous mob” of former President Donald Trump’s supporters who stormed the Capitol two weeks ago in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying him as the winner. He also broadly criticized the divisiveness and misinformation that have permeated American politics, calling on his political opponents to find common cause with him.
He identified the Covid-19 pandemic, extremism and white supremacy, and foreign affairs as the United States’ most significant challenges.
“This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward,” Biden said.
— Joe Walsh
Joe Biden Sworn In As 46th President
President Joe Biden took the oath of office late Wednesday morning, officially making him the country’s 46th commander-in-chief.
Biden was sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, standing beside First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. Vice President Kamala Harris took her oath of office immediately beforehand.
— Joe Walsh
VP Kamala Harris Takes Oath Of Office
Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president shortly before noon Wednesday, making her the first woman to hold the country’s second-highest office.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath of office.
— Joe Walsh
Trump Signs Final Pardon For Judge Jeanine Pirro’s Ex-Husband
Pirro was convicted on tax and conspiracy charges.
— Joe Walsh
Inauguration Speakers Reference Capitol Hill Riots Ahead Of Biden’s Swearing-In
Minutes before President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office, a pair of inauguration speakers framed his swearing-in as a response to the rioters who broke into the U.S. Capitol building two weeks ago.
In a speech on Wednesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said the riots — which she called an insurrection — “awakened us to our responsibilities.” She alluded to President Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration, which took place after several states seceded from the Union and immediately before the start of the Civil War.
“This is the day when our democracy picks itself up, brushes off the dust, and does what America always does,” Klobuchar said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said the riots underscored that the United States’ system of government is “both fragile and resilient.”
— Joe Walsh
Trump Lands In Florida Hour Before Presidency Ends
President Donald Trump landed in Palm Beach, Florida, before 11 a.m. Wednesday, shortly before the end of his term.
He’s the first president in more than 150 years to skip his successor’s inauguration. Instead, Trump — who spent months denying that Biden won — held a sendoff rally at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland early Wednesday morning. Vice President Mike Pence didn’t appear, but is attending Biden’s inauguration.
While en route to Florida, Trump watched the runup to the inauguration ceremony, CNN reported.
Trump reportedly plans to live at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, though he promised supporters Wednesday, “we will be back.”
— Joe Walsh
Members Of Congress Who Objected To Biden’s Win Arrive At Inauguration
Several Republican lawmakers who led an unsuccessful effort to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Congress two weeks ago — including Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) — are attending Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the two Republican congressional leaders — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — joined Biden for church service Wednesday morning, skipping a sendoff organized by President Donald Trump, who is refusing to attend his successor’s inauguration.
— Joe Walsh
Capitol Police Officer Who Faced Mob Will Escort VP-elect Harris To Inauguration Stage
Eugene Goodman — the Capitol Police officer who is credited with preventing a mob of rioters from reaching the Senate chambers on Jan. 6 — is escorting Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to today’s inauguration ceremony, CBS and CNN report.
- Goodman was captured in a viral clip singlehandedly facing down a group of rioters in the U.S. Capitol building two weeks ago.
- He appeared to trick the mob into storming away from the Senate chamber, which law enforcement officers were still trying to secure, meaning he may have prevented rioters from confronting senators.
- Goodman was named the Senate’s acting deputy sergeant-at-arms, and some legislators hope to give him the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.
— Joe Walsh
Inauguration Fashion Details Released
There will be no inauguration gown this year, according to the New York Times, but the first and second families are still expected to don American designer clothing, keeping with tradition.
- The president-elect will wear a Ralph Lauren navy suit and overcoat, according to Bloomberg, while incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will don a ocean blue wool tweed coat and dress from designer Alexandra O’Neil of Markarian.
- Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will wear Christopher John Rogers and Sergio Hudson, while the incoming Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will reportedly wear a Ralph Lauren suit.
- Christopher is a Black fashion designer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while Sergio is a Black designer from South Carolina.
Keeping With Tradition, Trump Reportedly Leaves Letter For Biden At White House
Despite not calling his successor or attending his inauguration, President Trump has adhered to at least one transition norm of leaving a letter behind for President-elect Joe Biden. According to CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Trump decided to leave a letter for Biden as it is one of the traditions that he relished in office. He would reportedly show off the letter that President Obama wrote left for him before leaving office so often that it was leaked to the press.
In his 2017 letter, Obama had congratulated Trump for his “remarkable run,” and offered to help him in “any ways” he could. Obama offered three bits of observations about the office in his letter, telling Trump that the President should work to uplift less fortunate Americans, should sustain America’s global leadership and should be aware that they are temporary occupants of the office who should ensure that they leave the instruments of democracy intact. According to Liptak, Trump was very taken by Obama’s letter and even tried to call him as soon as he read it on Inauguration Day in 2017.
‘We Will Be Back In Some Form’: Trump Delivers Rally-Like Speech Before Departing D.C.
Before departing Washington, D.C. for Florida, Trump delivered remarks to a small crowd at Joint Base Andrews. As Trump disembarked from Marine One with First Lady Melania Trump, “Hail to the Chief” played in the background and the small crowd chanted “We Love you, we love you!” Members of the military honored Trump with a 21-gun salute. “You are amazing people, this is a great, great country, it is my greatest honor and privilege to have been your president,” Trump said. I will always fight for you, I will be watching, I will be listening.”
- Trump kicked off his speech by thanking his family before rattling off campaign-like remarks in which he again did not mention Biden by name, only wishing the next administration “great success.”
- “We were not a regular administration,” Trump declared, emphatically, as he lauded his administration’s accomplishments, including Space Force, and the Covid-19 vaccine, at times stretching the truth.
- The president asked the crowd to “remember” him when the U.S. sees positive economic news, claiming his administration “had a lot of obstacles, and we went through the obstacles.”
- The event was attended by ardent supporters such as Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), but not Vice President Mike Pence, or other top Republicans.
- Trump ended the speech by telling his supporters to “have a good life” and promising to be back “in some form” soon.
- Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played in the background as Air Force One jetted off for Mar-a-Lago before his term ends at noon.
Trump Departs White House For Final Time As 45th President
Trump boarded Marine One and left the White House on Wednesday at around 8:19 a.m EST for the final time as the 45th president. It was “the honor of a lifetime,” the president told reporters as he walked with First Lady Melania Trump to the helicopter. “We love the American people.”
Marine One Lands At The White House
Marine One arrived at the White House on Wednesday morning minutes before 8:00 a.m. EST to pick up Trump and take him to Joint Base Andrews, where he is expected to deliver remarks without a teleprompter.
Trump Won’t Directly Hand Over Nuclear Football To Biden, Breaking With Norm
For the first time, an outgoing president won’t directly hand over the “nuclear football” to his successor at the inauguration ceremony as President Donald Trump plans to fly out of Washington at 8 a.m. EST. A critical national security asset, the nuclear football is a 45-pound briefcase that contains launch codes that allow a sitting president to order a nuclear strike from anywhere in the world. The “football” is usually carried by a military aide who remains close to the president at all times. According to NBC News, a military aide will accompany Trump to Florida with one of the footballs and the outgoing president will retain the sole authority to launch a nuclear strike until 11:59:59 a.m. EST. A separate military aide will hand over a second nuclear football to President-elect Joe Biden at noon once he is sworn in, after which he will have sole authority to launch a nuclear strike.
Cleaning Crews Scrub The White House Ahead Of Biden’s Arrival
The Oval Office was quiet on Wednesday morning, but inside, White House cleaning crews scrubbed offices before Biden and his family arrive in the afternoon.
Pence And Other Senior Republicans Decline Trump’s Invite To Farewell Event
Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and several other senior Republican leaders have reportedly declined President Trump’s invite to attend his farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Breaking with established norms, Trump will not be attending President-elect Biden’s inauguration ceremony today, as he plans to depart from Washington at 8 a.m. EST and head to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Other prominent Republicans who reportedly have turned down invites include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.
Biden To Kick Off Presidency With 17 Executive Actions Reversing Trump Policies
After getting sworn in later on Wednesday, President-elect Joe Biden is expected to sign 17 executive actions — 15 of which will be executive orders — in an attempt to reverse some of the decisions made by his predecessor, Donald Trump. According to CBS News, the actions will tackle the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a call for a 100-day nationwide face mask and social distancing mandate in federal buildings, as well as reversing Trump’s decision to exit the World Health Organisation. Biden’s orders will also target some of Trump’s immigration bans, loosening of environmental norms and other regulatory changes.
Trump Issues 143 Pardons And Commutations In Final Hours In Office
In one of his final acts as President, Donald Trump issued a slew of pardons and commutations on Wednesday morning, including to his controversial former campaign chief Steve Bannon, as well as rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black. Despite long-running speculation about his final list, Trump did not pardon himself or members of his family, nor extend one to his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani or other controversial figures, such as those who took part in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump’s list ranks him among presidents who have extended the least amount of clemencies, according to research by Pew.