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Highlights and analysis: Inaugural events to kick off amid heightened security

Biden and Harris will take part in a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday to commemorate those who have perished from Covid-19.
Watch live: Full coverage of the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on NBC News NOW.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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.

Biden, Harris to speak from Lincoln Memorial about lives lost to Covid-19

On the eve of their inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will speak Tuesday at the Lincoln Memorial's reflecting pool in Washington, D.C., to honor the lives lost from Covid-19.

Their remarks will come a day before they'll be sworn into office at 12 p.m. ET on the west front of the U.S. Capitol.

The Biden administration’s biggest challenge will be addressing the coronavirus pandemic during its worst period and trying to distribute vaccines nationwide. The president-elect laid out a comprehensive plan last week to get shots in arms to stem the spread of Covid.

Read the story.

Biden's NSC to focus on 'domestic violent extremism'

The Biden administration plans to make domestic terrorism a key focus of the National Security Council, according to transition officials.

Officials have been looking at ways to shift government resources that have been used for counterterrorism to combating domestic terrorism, officials said. The incoming administration plans to make announcements on the effort in the coming days. 

After some internal debate over what to call the issue officially, the Biden administration is expected to refer to it as “domestic violent extremism” rather than domestic terrorism. The NSC’s emphasis on domestic violent extremism would involve traditional principals committee meetings and coordination with relevant agencies, including the Homeland Security and Justice departments, officials said.

Biden pointedly labeled the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol as domestic terrorism in speech announcing his Justice Department nominees.

“They weren't protestors,” Biden said. “They were a riotous mob. Insurrectionists. Domestic terrorists. It's that basic. It's that simple.” 

For Biden's team, a transition many months in the making

WILMINGTON, Del. — It was November when the word "ascertainment" entered the political lexicon as the bureaucratic barrier for Joe Biden's ability to formally begin his transition. But the word had been a front-of-center concern for months for his under-the-radar planning team, so much so that in late June its executive director, Yohannes Abraham, emailed an outside expert requesting a full briefing about the potential ramifications — and began developing a game plan for how the Biden team could move ahead without it.

The ascertainment question, which wasn't until three weeks after Election Day, was just one of several potential barriers Biden's team had to consider. Members referred to them as the "extraordinary challenges" — largely, but not exclusively, Trump-related headaches that would have to be addressed if the already-daunting task of standing up an administration in just 11 weeks would have any chance of success.

But against those odds, when Biden takes the oath in two days, he will have an administration with more key positions filled than some of his recent predecessors had and a policy process ready to tackle the multiple challenges he will face.

Read the story.

Trump to lift some Covid travel restrictions, a move Biden quickly rejects

President Donald Trump said Monday that he is ending Covid-19 travel restrictions for air travelers from Europe and Brazil, a move the incoming administration quickly rejected.

In a proclamation, Trump said the restrictions would be lifted Jan. 26, the same day a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order requiring negative tests for air travelers coming to the U.S. takes effect.

But by then, Joe Biden will be president, and his press secretary tweeted that the restrictions would remain in place.

Read the story.

U.S. surpasses 400,000 Covid deaths nearly one year after nation's first confirmed case

More than 400,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the U.S., according to an NBC News tally early Tuesday, a milestone that seemed unimaginable at the start of the pandemic a year ago.

More than 2 million people have been recorded killed by the virus worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. death toll is the world's worst, even though it makes up less than 5 percent of the world's population.

As of early Tuesday, there have been 400,103 U.S. deaths, according to NBC News' count. The U.S. confirmed its first case of the virus in Seattle on Jan. 21, 2020.

Read the story.

Janet Yellen to warn of recession unless Congress takes 'big' action

Janet Yellen, Biden's nominee for treasury secretary, will warn at her confirmation hearing Tuesday that the U.S. is heading toward a major recession unless lawmakers "act big," according to her prepared remarks.

“Neither the president-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big. In the long run, I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time,” Yellen will say.

Yellen’s testimony, which she will deliver remotely to the Senate Finance Committee starting at 10 a.m. ET, comes days after Biden released his economic and Covid-19 relief plan.

“People worry about a K-shaped recovery but well before COVID-19 infected a single American, we were living in a K-shaped economy, one where wealth built on wealth while working families fell further and further behind. This is especially true for people of color," she will say.

Senate committees hold confirmation hearings for five of Biden's Cabinet nominees

The Senate is holding confirmation hearings Tuesday for five of Biden's Cabinet nominees, with others scheduled to testify in the coming days.

  • Avril Haines, Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee at 10 a.m. ET.
  • Janet Yellen, the president-elect's nominee for treasury secretary, will testify before the Senate Finance Committee at 10 a.m. ET.
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden's homeland security secretary nominee, will appear before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at 10 a.m. ET.
  • Tony Blinken, the nominee for secretary of state, will appear before Senate Foreign Relations at 2 p.m. ET.
  • Lloyd Austin, Biden's nominee for defense secretary, will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 3 p.m. ET. 

Four years of capturing Donald Trump

The rampage that swept through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 produced a visual record unlike anything in recent memory. 

The scenes were unreal: a congressman comforting his colleague while both took cover, a horned and shirtless man screaming in the Senate, rioters scaling the walls outside, to name a few.

Both inside and outside, photographers navigated chaos to chronicle the moment, making historic photographs along the way.

The story of Jan. 6 is an extension of the Trump presidency itself, and in its waning days, it's worth looking back at how photographers have documented his presidency and pushed the bounds of political photography.

Read the story.

Covid relief, economic stimulus, immigration: What to expect in Biden's first 100 days

President-elect Joe Biden's first days in office will be dominated by crisis: the coronavirus pandemic and economic emergency it caused, as well as the fallout from the deadly Capitol riot as his predecessor faces a Senate impeachment trial.

Biden frequently talks about the need to use the first 100 days, which have typically been a honeymoon period for new presidents, to make significant progress on the challenges facing the country, but the inability to find bipartisan cooperation may hamstring him before he takes the oath of office.

Biden said last week that the country is in a "crisis of deep human suffering in plain sight" when he outlined a $1.9 trillion funding bill that he has asked Congress to pass quickly.

The Senate already has a busy schedule. Lawmakers will have to find time to debate a funding bill, confirm Biden's Cabinet nominees and deal with the article of impeachment passed last week in the House. A trial could start as soon as Inauguration Day.

Read the story.

NBC News poll: Biden takes the helm of a polarized, pessimistic and pained nation

When Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. takes the oath of office to become the country's 46th president Wednesday, he will face an increasingly polarized, pessimistic and pained nation, according to numbers from the latest national NBC News poll.

More than 7 in 10 voters believe the country is on the wrong track, another 7 in 10 think the next four years will remain politically divided, and a majority say they are mainly worried and pessimistic about the nation's future.

Overall, voters give Biden positive marks for his handling of a transition rocked by an outgoing president who refused to concede his defeat and who falsely claimed widespread fraud and voting irregularities, by a violent attack at the U.S. Capitol in protest of the election results, by an unprecedented second impeachment of his predecessor and by the deaths of more than 170,000 people in the U.S. from Covid-19 since Election Day.

But a majority of all voters don't have high confidence in Biden's goals, policies and personal characteristics, and a plurality of Republicans aren't inclined to compromise with him.

Read the story.

Texas real estate agent on Capitol riot: 'I'm glad I was there'

Jenna Ryan says it all began with an invitation from a "very cute guy" on Facebook: Would she join him on a private plane to the Jan. 6 Trump rally in Washington, D.C.?

The decision was easy. Ryan, a Dallas-area real estate agent, is single, loves President Donald Trump and believes the discredited claim that the election was riddled with fraud.

But the trip didn't have a happy ending.

Within 48 hours of her return to Texas, social media posts made by Ryan, who livestreamed herself entering the U.S. Capitol with a mob of Trump supporters, were being shared with the FBI, and she would soon become the target of a federal investigation.

Read the story.

Biden readies sweeping rollback of Trump-era abortion crackdown

President-elect Joe Biden is poised to roll back several of the Trump administration's most restrictive sexual and reproductive health policies, including limits on abortion.

Reproductive rights advocates expect Biden to quickly overturn Trump-era rules, like banning federal funds for foreign and national health organizations that promote and provide abortion and giving employers more freedom to deny free contraceptive coverage for their workers.

"We have a ton of work to do to undo the harm over the last four years, but knowing we have champions there who understand what needs to happen in the first 100 days is tremendously exciting," said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood.

Read the story.

Capitol rioter plotted to sell stolen Pelosi laptop to Russian intelligence

A Pennsylvania woman accused of being one of the Capitol rioters told a former "romantic partner" she planned to steal a laptop computer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and sell it to Russian intelligence, court documents revealed Monday.

Riley June Williams was charged with disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds with the intent to disturb a session of Congress and other charges after her former flame turned her in.

William's ex, who was described in Special Agent Jonathan Lund's charging document as W 1 (witness one), called the FBI and told them she "intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.”

Read the story.

Off the grid, heavily armed and radicalized: He's a law enforcement nightmare

While responding to reports of explosive devices in the area, U.S. Capitol Police officers saw the handle of a firearm on the front right passenger seat of Lonnie Coffman's truck.
While responding to reports of explosive devices in the area, U.S. Capitol Police officers saw the handle of a firearm on the front right passenger seat of Lonnie Coffman's truck.U.S. Capitol Police

Lonnie Coffman, the man accused of driving a pickup truck filled with Molotov cocktails and other deadly weapons to the nation’s capital, lives in a brick ranch house in the backwoods of Alabama.

Coffman had no criminal record. No apparent social media accounts. And no city officials or law enforcement in the area had ever come into contact with him.

“I don’t know him, never heard of him and I haven’t heard of anybody that did know him,” said Ken Winkles, mayor of the 1,300-person town of Falkville, where Coffman’s mail is delivered.

The 70-year-old Alabama man with no criminal history or known extremist ties represents the worst nightmare for law enforcement, experts say — an apparent lone wolf who operated completely under the radar.

Read the story.

'Small fire' prompts brief shutdown of Capitol, evacuation of inauguration rehearsal participants

Image:
National Guard members take a staircase toward the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 18, 2021.Patrick Semansky / AP

A "small fire" under a nearby bridge prompted the temporary shutdown of the U.S. Capitol complex and the evacuation of the west front of the building, where a rehearsal for Wednesday's inaugural ceremony was underway Monday.

"Public safety and law enforcement responded to a small fire in the area of 1st and F streets SE, Washington, D.C. that has been extinguished," the Secret Service tweeted. "Out of an abundance of caution the U.S. Capitol complex was temporarily shutdown. There is no threat to the public."

Yogananda Pittman, acting chief of Capitol Police, acted out of "an abundance of caution following an external security threat under the bridge on I-295 at First and F Streets," and ordered a shutdown of the Capitol complex, according to a statement from Capitol Police.

Read the story.