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Inauguration Day 2021 highlights: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take office

The new president and vice president were sworn in on Inauguration Day 2021 without Donald Trump in attendance. Watch the inaugural performances, full speeches and highlights.
Image: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on a background of blurry blue stripes with red, distorted stars.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president on Wednesday, kicking off a day of fanfare that stood in stark contrast to a Washington devoid of crowds and on edge amid heightened security after the insurrection at the Capitol.

A star-studded, largely virtual celebration began following Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris' swearing-in at the West Front of the Capitol at a little before noon. Biden placed his hand on a more-than-100-year-old family Bible held by his wife, Jill Biden, to take the oath of office.

Only about 1,000 socially distanced guests, including former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, attended the ceremony. Donald Trump was not present, making him the first president to skip a successor's inauguration since Andrew Johnson.

Lady Gaga sung the national anthem, which was followed by a virtual parade involving all the states and territories. A 90-minute TV special, "Celebrating America," hosted by Tom Hanks, airs Wednesday evening.

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Read the highlights:

— In his inaugural address, Biden says "democracy has prevailed" and calls for an end to America's "uncivil war." Harris' historic moment.

— Trump pardons Steve Bannon and dozens of others in final hours in office; read the full list.

— Some QAnon followers lose hope after inauguration.

— Trump administration trying to sabotage Biden immigration plans with last-minute deals, say officials.

— Bernie Sanders, Lady Gaga and 'How it's going': Here are the best inauguration memes.

— Viewers' guide to Biden's Inauguration Day: Everything you need to know.

Obamas congratulate former VP Biden on becoming president

'Something we can hang our hats on': Mississippi farmer hopes Biden brings opportunities

JACKSON, Miss. — Calvin Head, who leads a historically Black-owned farming cooperative in the Mississippi Delta, hopes to hear a pledge to “create opportunities” for impoverished, rural communities during Joe Biden's inaugural address. 

Head said members of his co-op in Mileston, Mississippi, were struggling to recover from 2019 flooding when the pandemic hit. In his view, relief efforts have fallen short: Tedious paperwork deters farmers from applying for aid, and changes to the Department of Agriculture's Farmers to Families Food Box program have resulted in larger out-of-state farms receiving contracts, rather than local growers, he said. 

“When the bailout comes, big farmers reap the benefits,” he said. “Small farmers get the crumbs off the table.”

Head wants to see government investments in the Delta that create jobs for unemployed residents and support small farmers. 

“We want to hear something we can hang our hats on or be hopeful about,” he said. 

Golden State Warriors tweet video congratulating Oakland native Harris

Hillary Clinton celebrates Kamala Harris becoming first woman VP

Trump departs Washington in final hours as president, travels to Florida

President Donald Trump speaks at Joint Base Andrews before departing Wednesday.Carlos Barria / Reuters

President Donald Trump touted his time in office on Wednesday morning, speaking to supporters at Joint Base Andrews at a send-off as he left Washington on his final day in office.

"It is my greatest honor and privilege to have been your president," he said to cheers. "I wish the new administration great luck and great success, and I think they'll have great success. They have the foundation to do something really spectacular."

The tone was a shift from previous weeks, in which Trump continued to insist without evidence that he did not lose the election, an insistence that culminated in a mob of his supporters attacking the Capitol in an effort to stop President-elect Joe Biden's election from becoming official.

Breaking with decades of tradition, Trump will not participate in the peaceful transition of power and is skipping the inauguration. He opted for a rally-like setup at the military airfield, complete with large speakers blasting his campaign playlist, American flags, and several hundred gathered supporters. 

Read the story.

Full list of Trump's last-minute pardons and commuted sentences

With only hours to go before leaving office, President Trump pardoned 73 people and commuted the sentences of 70 others.

The list, made public early Wednesday morning, included his former chief strategist and longtime ally Steve Bannon as well as his former top fundraiser Elliott Broidy.

See the full list here.

Surgeon General Adams says Biden team has asked him to resign

Jerome Adams said Wednesday that he has been asked by the Biden team to step down as surgeon general.

"[It's] been the honor of my life to serve this Nation, and I will do all I can to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve and maintain health," Adams tweeted.

Adams said in a full statement posted on Facebook that he tried to communicate the evolving science behind Covid-19 to the public and provide people with tools to stay safe.

"I wasn’t always right — because no one was, and this virus continues to humble all of us — but I was always sincere in my efforts to speak to everyday Americans, and address the terrible health inequities this virus exposed," Adams said. "I hope in 2021 and beyond, we can focus more on what unites us, and rise above what divides us. Because Americans working together can overcome any obstacle or adversary."

Biden has nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general, a role that he held under President Obama. He must be confirmed by the Senate before serving in the position again.

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Biden, Harris inauguration underway amid Covid pandemic and D.C. lockdown

The "Field of flags" is seen on the National Mall ahead of inauguration ceremonies.Allison Shelley / Reuters

President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn-in as the 46th president of the United States Wednesday at noon, amid a devastating global pandemic and the threat of possible domestic terrorism.

In a ceremony that will keep with tradition while being unlike any other inauguration in U.S. history, Biden will take his oath of office before a small, socially distanced audience in a city that has been locked down because of the dual threats of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 400,000 people in the U.S., and worries over another attack just weeks after the deadly violence at the U.S. Capitol.

Those slated to attend the scaled-down ceremony include most members of Congress and the Supreme Court and former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and their spouses, as well as Vice President Mike Pence.

President Donald Trump won't be in attendance, making him the first president to skip his successor's inauguration in more than 150 years. As he left the White House on Wednesday morning, he told reporters that serving as president was "the honor of a lifetime" and claimed that "we've accomplished a lot."

Read the story.

FIRST READ: How Joe Biden met the 2020 moment

Over the last two years, it was easy to see how today’s moment — Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. being sworn in as the nation’s 46th president — wasn’t going to happen.

Biden, the thinking went, was too old. He wasn’t inspirational or exciting enough as a former vice president. He was prone to gaffes. He wasn’t great on the stump. And he often stumbled in debates.

But what Biden achieved was meeting — and understanding — the moment that presented itself during a presidential campaign unlike any other.

Get more First Read.