Preparations for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration continued Wednesday amid a heavy security presence in Washington, with the areas around the Capitol and downtown streets closed to the public and tens of thousands of National Guard troops mobilized in a massive show of force.
In a major departure from previous inaugurations, most of the events were already planned to take place virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. In a sign of the anxiety gripping Washington following the riot at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob earlier this month, the building was briefly on lockdown and its west front, where a rehearsal for Wednesday's inaugural ceremony was taking place, was evacuated Monday after a "small fire" under a nearby bridge prompted an announcement of a security threat.
On Tuesday evening, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will speak at a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to commemorate the over 400,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19. A field of flags has been placed on the National Mall, representing those unable to attend the inauguration because of the coronavirus. The inauguration comes as the Senate prepares to try President Donald Trump on one article of impeachment for urging thousands of supporters to march on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
This live coverage has ended. Continue reading inauguration news from Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.
Read the highlights:
— Viewers' guide to Biden's Inauguration Day: Everything you need to know.
— Texas man who stormed Capitol accused of threat to shoot children if they turned him in.
— Trump to lift some Covid travel restrictions, a move Biden quickly rejects.
— Four years of capturing Donald Trump.
— By the numbers: A statistical look at Trump's four years in office.
Eva Longoria at Latino inaugural celebration: 'Help is on the way'
Actor and activist Eva Longoria kicked off a Latino inaugural celebration noting the Jan. 6 “assault” on the Capitol amid the pandemic but hailing “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
A lineup of Latino stars including Lin-Manuel Miranda and John Leguizamo gave short history lessons and performances in the taped event broadcast online Tuesday night, the eve of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
“Already in this new year we’ve witnessed the very heart of our democracy being threatened during an assault on our nation’s Capitol building,” Longoria said. “During all of this, the nation continues its battle against Covid-19.”
The toll of the pandemic is one the Latino community knows well, she said.
“But now after months of loss and hardship and uncertainty, there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel,” Longoria said “We know that help is on the way.”
Trump won't hand Biden the nuclear football. Here's how the handoff will happen.
When he is sworn in Wednesday, President-elect Joe Biden will get the nuclear "football" — an oddly shaped 45-pound briefcase that is always at the president's side for command and control of the country's massive nuclear arsenal.
A military aide carrying the "football" remains physically close to the president, ready to carry out the well-rehearsed choreography of command and control.
Smithsonian Magazine reported that is it officially called the "president's emergency satchel," and it is built around a "sturdy aluminum frame, encased in black leather." But, the magazine noted, unlike in the movies, it does not have a big red button to launch a nuclear war.
However, for the first time, the outgoing president, Donald Trump, will not hand off the black leather case to the incoming president. Typically, the handoff takes place at the inauguration ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
Because Trump plans to be in Florida when Biden is sworn in, the handoff will happen differently. It is the first time in the nuclear age that a sitting president has not attended his successor's inauguration.
DOJ closes early Covid insider trading case of GOP Sen. Richard Burr, lawyer says
The Justice Department closed its insider trading probe into Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., his lawyer said in a statement on Tuesday.
Burr faced calls to resign last year after reports that the powerful Intelligence Committee chairman privately warned well-connected donors of the dire impacts of the coronavirus pandemic while also selling off up to $1.6 million of his own stocks.
“Senator Burr is pleased that the Department of Justice has completed a thorough review of this matter and closed it without further action," Alice Fisher, Burr’s lawyer, said in a statement. "As the country continues to concentrate efforts on battling the challenges presented by COVID-19, Senator Burr’s focus will remain on the safety and security of North Carolinians and the United States as a whole.“
The DOJ also confirmed the investigation has been closed.
Washington hotels weigh inauguration profits against safety
It used to be that the inauguration was a cash cow for the Washington hotel industry. But this year, given the recent riot at the U.S. Capitol and the coronavirus pandemic, hotel executives and workers are torn between catching up on lost revenues and staying safe
In the past week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser all asked visitors not to travel to the nation's capital for the 59th presidential inauguration. But because hotels have suffered so much from a lack of tourists because of Covid-19, some have tried to remain open to recover some losses.
Many Washington businesses, especially hotels, have suffered far more than hotels in other cities and are desperate to recover from the past year's losses, according to the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. Angela Franco, interim president and CEO of the chamber, said the group lobbied for hotels to remain open throughout the inauguration. She pointed to a report from Washington's chief financial officer showing that each inauguration brings about $3 million in sales tax revenue.
"The impact of Covid has been difficult ... and now with everything that's happening, I think it makes it a little more complicated," she said.
YouTube suspension of Trump channel to last at least another week
Donald Trump won't get his YouTube channel back after he leaves office Wednesday. At least, not for now.
"Confirming that in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, the Donald J. Trump channel will be prevented from uploading new videos or livestreams for an additional minimum of seven days," YouTube, which is owned by Google, said in a statement. It added that comments would continue to be indefinitely disabled under his videos.
Trump used the White House's separate YouTube channel Tuesday to release a farewell address.
Biden and Harris attend Covid-19 memorial ahead of inauguration
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris attended a memorial to Covid-19 victims ahead of the inauguration.
The memorial was held at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, which was illuminated by 400 lights to honor the 400,000 people who have died so far from the disease in the U.S.
Harris said the ceremony was meant to mark the time "we grieve and begin healing together."
A prayer was offered by Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, and two songs were sung to honor lives lost — "Amazing Grace" by Michigan nurse Lori Marie Key, who went viral singing the song during the height of the pandemic, and "Hallelujah" by gospel singer Yolanda Adams.
"To heal, we must remember. And it's hard sometimes to remember, but that's how we heal," Biden said. "It's important to do that as a nation. That's why we're here today. Between sundown and dusk, let us shine lights in the darkness to remember all who we lost."
Biden arrives at Blair House
President-elect Joe Biden arrived for the traditional stay at Blair House in Washington ahead of the inauguration.
"As is customary, the White House offered use of the Blair House for Jan. 19th, and it was accepted," a State Department spokesman said.
Pence among several former aides not attending Trump sendoff
A White House official and source familiar with the matter tell NBC News Vice President Mike Pence is not expected to attend the Joint Base Andrews sendoff for President Trump tomorrow.
The White House official said it is not logistically feasible for Pence to attend both the sendoff and the inauguration, but Pence is not the only Trump administration member opting out.
A person familiar with the matter tells NBC News that Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton and Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman were invited, but are not planning to attend. Bolton has been sharply critical of his former boss, writing a book about all the ways he believes Trump is unfit to serve as president.
Invited guests are allowed to bring five additional guests, something a former White House official who is not attending the event described as “desperation” and an attempt to “fill seats.” Several former campaign officials and staffers said they were asked by others who were invited to attend as their guests and they are declining. These officials and staffers all said they were not directly invited.
Trump, who has refused to attend the inauguration that traditionally mark outgoing president's final hours, has planned the airport sendoff for himself, with what sources say will be the pomp and pageantry of an official state visit.