President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in at noon today, in a scaled back ceremony at the US Capitol.
Kamala Harris will make history as the first female, first Black and first South Asian US vice president.
Washington DC and states across the country are under strict and heightened security over fears of possible new threats today.
Even before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, rising Covid-19 numbers had already forced President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural committee to transition to a virtual ceremony.
The inauguration ceremony itself will be broadcast on major news channels, including CNN, so everyone can watch the festivities safely from home. Performances by Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez will headline the swearing-in ceremony, with Gaga singing the national anthem.
What we know so far about Biden’s inaugural address today
From CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Gregory Krieg and Eric Bradner
President-elect Joe Biden speaks at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, DC, on January 19. The Covid-19 memorial paid tribute to Americans who have died because of the pandemic. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images
President-elect Joe Biden has spoken volumes inside the US Capitol over more than four decades, but the weight of those words does not approach the magnitude of the message he will deliver on its steps during his inaugural address today.
Biden has been steadily crafting the speech — adding a thought here, inserting a line there — since the day after he delivered a victory address in Wilmington, Delaware, aides say. But in those passing 72 days, Biden’s burden has grown even heavier, with President Trump’s relentless falsehoods complicating the already-challenging task of unifying a divided nation.
Mike Donilon, a longtime adviser to Biden who will join him in the West Wing, is overseeing the speechwriting process along with Vinay Reddy, Biden’s chief speechwriter. Jon Meacham, the historian and presidential biographer, is also helping shape the inaugural address, which will be delivered as the opening mark of perhaps the most challenging presidency since Franklin Roosevelt.
It is expected to be about 20 minutes in length, aides said, which follows a pattern of inaugural addresses from recent presidents. Four years ago, Trump spoke for 15 minutes, while Barack Obama’s speech in 2009 was about 18 minutes.
For the first time in modern history, the new president’s successor will not be sitting within arm’s reach on the west front of the Capitol. By the time Biden takes his oath of office, Trump is scheduled to have arrived at his home in Florida. Aides say Biden is unlikely to mention — or certainly not dwell on — Trump, but could give an appreciative nod at Vice President Mike Pence, who plans to attend.
The exact text is a closely guarded secret, advisers tell CNN. Not only because he wants the message to be fresh, but also because the speech has changed multiple times — out of necessity, given the horrific siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6, and also because of Biden’s penchant for rewriting speeches until the very last minute.
But several people close to Biden say clues to his address can be found in themes from his speech on Nov. 7, 2020, when he implored Americans: “Let’s give each other a chance.”
“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again. Listen to each other again,” Biden said on that crisp night. “And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans. They’re Americans.”
Those words now strike almost an ominous tone, with their mission even more difficult after a pro-Trump mob attempting to stop Congress from accepting the electoral votes overtook the Capitol steps where Biden will deliver his first message to the nation as president.
Harris will make history today when she is sworn in as vice president
From CNN's Jasmine Wright and Kate Sullivan
U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks at a Covid-19 memorial in Washington, D.C., on January 19. The memorial paid tribute to Americans who have died because of the pandemic. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Kamala Harris will be sworn in today as the next vice president of the United States by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, according to a Harris aide.
Harris will make history as the first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president, and she will be sworn in by the first Hispanic and third female justice in US Supreme Court history. Sotomayor was nominated by President Barack Obama to the high court and has served since 2009.
The vice president-elect will take her oath of office using two Bibles; one that previously belonged to a former neighbor and family friend of Harris’, Regina Shelton, and another that belonged to Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court, the aide said.
ABC News was first to report the Bibles and that Sotomayor would swear Harris in.
Harris has described Shelton as a second mother to her, and she and her sister Maya often visited Shelton’s house after school while their mother, the late Shyamala Gopalan, was still at work as a breast cancer researcher. Shelton lived two doors down from Harris’ home. Harris used Shelton’s Bible to take the oath of office to be attorney general of California and later to become a United States senator.
“In office and into the fight, I carry Mrs. Shelton with me always,” Harris wrote in an op-ed for Bustle about Shelton titled, “Without This Woman, I Wouldn’t Be The Senator I Am Today.”
Harris has often said that Marshall was one of the inspirations for her legal career and has described him as a “childhood hero of mine.”
The vice president-elect said in a video posted to Twitter in July, “Thurgood Marshall and the work that he did is … really one of the main reasons I wanted to be a lawyer. Thurgood was a fighter, he was a boxer in the courtroom.”
Trump will hold a departure ceremony this morning ahead of Biden’s inauguration
From CNN's Kevin Liptak, Kaitlan Collins, Jim Acosta and the White House team
President Donald Trump boards Air Force One before departing Harlingen, Texas, on January 12. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Eager for a final taste of the pomp of being president, President Trump will have a departure ceremony this morning before one last presidential flight to Palm Beach.
Trump is expected to leave from Joint Base Andrews this morning and arrive at his Palm Beach resort by the time President-elect Joe Biden is being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.
Trump has told people, CNN reported, that he dislikes the idea of leaving Washington as an ex-president and hates the thought of having to ask Biden to use the plane.
Trump’s departure aboard Marine One from the White House South Lawn will likely be visible and audible to the Bidens, who will spend the night before the inauguration at Blair House, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the executive mansion.
Its use was offered to them by the State Department rather than the Trumps, who refuse to make contact with the incoming president and first lady.
Once Trump arrives at Joint Base Andrews, he is expected to receive a military-style sendoff and joined by a crowd of supporters.
This event is expected to be like a state visit departure event, an official told CNN. Some of the pomp and circumstance under consideration for the ceremony includes a color guard, military band, 21-gun salute and red carpet.
Biden’s first executive order will require masks on federal property
From CNN Health’s Maggie Fox
President-elect Joe Biden plans to make the coronavirus pandemic his first priority as president, and he’s taking a calculated and symbolic action straight off.
Biden’s first executive order will require masks on federal property. It is meant to symbolize the new administration’s 180-degree turn to validate and support science in fighting the pandemic, and to set an example from the top down.
“This executive action will direct the agencies to take action to require compliance with CDC guidance on mask wearing and physical distancing in federal buildings, on federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors,” Biden’s counselor and Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters.
“And the President will call on governors, public health officials, mayors, business leaders and others to implement masking, physical distancing and other public measures to control Covid-19,” Zients added.
“This is not a political statement. This is about the health of our families, and economic recovery of our country.”
Trump pointedly refused to wear a mask in public throughout his presidency, and Trump political appointees across federal agencies often discouraged mask use among their staff. Largely mask-free events sponsored by the White House were linked to multiple Covid-19 infections, including an event for Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Trump was himself hospitalized for a coronavirus infection in October.
Here’s a look at some of the executive orders Biden is expected to sign today
From CNN’s Sarah Mucha
The White House is pictured on January 20. Maddie McGarvey for CNN
After he is sworn in today as the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden is expected to sign a slate of executive actions in the Oval Office, fulfilling a campaign promise to act on a wide range of issues on day one.
Here’s a look at some of the actions we’re expecting:
On the Covid-19 pandemic:
- Biden will enact a “100 Days Masking Challenge,” asking Americans to wear a mask for 100 days and signing a national mask mandate, requiring masks in all federal buildings and federal lands.
- He will stop the United States’ withdrawal from the World Health Organization.
- Biden will create the position of “COVID-19 Response Coordinator” through executive action. This is a role that that will report directly to the President.
- Biden will restore the National Security Council’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense.
On the economy:
- Biden will issue an executive order asking the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to extend the moratorium on evictions until at least March 31.
- Ask the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to extend foreclosure moratoriums for federally guaranteed mortgages and continuing applications for forbearance for federally guaranteed mortgages until March 31.
- Ask Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to extend foreclosure moratoriums until March 31.
On the climate crisis:
- Biden will rejoin the Paris Agreement, singing a notice that will be sent to the United Nations later today. The United States will officially become party to the agreement in 30 days.
- He will sign a broad executive order that will direct agencies to review emissions standards, take action on any regulations imposed during the Trump administration that are deemed ‘harmful,’ and place a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- Biden will re-establish the Interagency Working Group the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases.
- He will revoke permits over the last four years that “do not serve the US national interest,” including a presidential permit granted to the Keystone XL pipeline.
On racial equity:
- Biden will issue an executive order instructing agencies to conduct a baseline review of systemic inequities in their programs and policies and to deliver action plans to reverse these findings.
- As part of a broader executive order, Biden will rescind the 1776 Commission.
- He will overturn President Trump’s executive order to limit federal government contractors and agencies from implementing diversity training.
- He will rescind President Trump’s orders excluding non-citizens from the US Census.
- Incoming National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan outlined the administration’s immigration policies while noting that Biden intends to begin work immediately to address the broader root causes of failed immigration policy.
- On DACA, Biden will sign a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of Homeland Security to take ‘appropriate actions’ to preserve and fortify DACA.
- He will overturn the executive order ending the travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries.
- He will sign a memorandum to extend Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians until June 30, 2022.
- He will also sign an order ensures that the federal government interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Biden will declare an immediate pause in border wall construction. This includes finding a way to redirect funds that were funneled into the building of the wall by the Trump administration.
This is what Biden and Harris’ first day in office will look like
From CNN's Sarah Mucha
Last night the Biden-Harris transition team released the daily schedule for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ first day in office.
It includes the signing of multiple executive orders and a 7 p.m. ET White House press briefing from press secretary Jen Psaki.
Biden will also swear in “day one presidential appointees” in a virtual ceremony, according to a news release.
Here’s a look at Wednesday’s schedule:
- 8:45 a.m. ET: Biden, Harris and their spouses attend a church service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
- Noon: Biden and Harris are sworn in.
- 2:25 p.m. ET: Biden and Harris visit the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
- 5:15 p.m. ET: Biden signs executive orders and other presidential actions.
- 5:45 p.m. ET: Biden swears in presidential appointees in a virtual ceremony.
- 8:48 p.m. ET: Biden and Harris deliver remarks at the “Celebrating America” inaugural program.