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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.

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.

Carol E. LeeCarol E. Lee is the Washington managing editor.

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.

Read the full story.

DOJ closes early Covid insider trading case of GOP Sen. Richard Burr, lawyer says

Dartunorro Clark

Michael Kosnar

Dartunorro Clark and Michael Kosnar

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

Christian Peña

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.

Read the full story.

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. 

YouTube said Tuesday that the possibility of violence around the transition of power means its suspension of Trump, announced last week, will last another week at least. 

"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

Dartunorro Clark

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."

Image: Joe Biden, Jill Biden, Kamala Harris, Doug Emhoff
President-elect Joe Biden with his wife, Jill Biden, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris with her husband, Doug Emhoff, listen to Cardinal Wilton Gregory speak during a Covid-19 memorial in Washington on Tuesday.Evan Vucci / AP

Biden arrives at Blair House

Marianna Sotomayor

President-elect Joe Biden arrived for the traditional stay at Blair House in Washington ahead of the inauguration.

The State Department announced that the Bidens would stay at Blair House before he is sworn in Wednesday. President Donald Trump has said he will not attend the ceremony.

"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.

Biden lands at Joint Base Andrews ahead of inauguration

Dartunorro Clark

Biden landed at Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday afternoon as he readies to take over the White House after giving a tearful farewell to supporters in his hometown of Delaware ahead of his inauguration. 

The President-elect will be greeted by Col. Stephen P. Snelson, Commander, 89th Airlift Wing, and his wife Catherine Snelson.

Trump asks nation to 'pray' for Biden administration, says MAGA movement 'only just beginning'

Dartunorro Clark

In his farewell address to the nation on Tuesday, President Donald Trump attempted to highlight his administration’s successes amid the backdrop of an impeachment trial for inciting an insurrection while also calling on Americans to "pray" for the new administration.

"This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous," Trump said.

He added, "We did what we came here to do — and so much more," referring to the administration's conservative legislative achievements and record-setting judicial appointments.

As Trump faces a second impeachment trial in the Senate, where a conviction could bar him from holding public office in the future, he said in his speech his "Make America Great Again" movement is "only just beginning."

Click here for the full story

Facebook has no plans to lift Trump ban, sources say

Dylan Byers

Facebook has no plan in place to lift the indefinite suspension on President Donald Trump's Facebook account following his departure from the White House on Wednesday, sources familiar with the company's plans said.

The ban on Trump's account remains indefinite, the sources said, and there is no current plan in place to lift it. The social media giant said on Jan. 7 that it would "indefinitely" ban the president's account due to his role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol a day earlier. The company said the ban would last at least through the end of his term.

Facebook's suspension stopped short of the permanent ban that other social media companies like Twitter and Snapchat lated placed on Trump's accounts.

After pandemic, inauguration was 'make-or-break' moment. But small businesses in D.C. fear the worst.

Small businesses in Washington traditionally see their sales double or triple during inauguration week, as people from around the country travel to the capital to welcome the new president. But after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, restaurants and stores are facing another week of bleak sales amid a punishing pandemic as the city shuts down over threats of violence from supporters of President Donald Trump.

“I always say D.C. pays the price for what happens on the national level,” Angela Franco, interim president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, told NBC News. “Any protest that doesn’t end up well, the city ends up paying the price.”

The city has been hammered by political unrest over the last year as the pandemic closed stores and prohibited indoor dining, gutting some businesses. More than one-quarter of small businesses in Washington were closed by July 2020 and revenues fell by about 50 percent, according to an October report from the D.C. Policy Center. The district’s small businesses had the sixth-largest closure rate of 53 major cities in the United States over the course of the pandemic last year, the report found. Dozens of storefronts shut down over the summer as protests raged over police violence against Black people, costing businesses additional lost sales.

Now, threats of violence during the inauguration mean that roads around the Capitol are blocked and 25,000 National Guard troops are stationed around the city. It’s just the latest blow to Washington’s fragile small-business community.

Read the story.

Pelosi tells MSNBC's Joy Reid: 'Trump was a stain on our country'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Pelosi spoke Tuesday about the end of Trump's presidency and the transfer of power Wednesday to Joe Biden.

Speaking about Trump's decision not to greet Biden at the White House, Pelosi said in an interview on MSNBC, "I do think that we're bigger than all of this. Donald Trump was a stain on our country.

The full interview with Joy Reid is set to air at 10 p.m. ET Tuesday. 

"I don't think we could have sustained our democracy if he had two terms in office, for what he was doing to our institution or what he was doing to our Constitution. He dishonored it," Pelosi said.

She added that Trump "in every respect was unworthy to be president, did not respect the office that he held and certainly did not respect the office the rest of us hold as well. I respect the office of presidency, of the president, more than he did for how he mistreated it. So in any event, he's gone. We have to let — we have to — how can I say it? It's not lessons learned because it was so evident all along what a disgrace he was. But to find out how we can bring people together, that's our responsibility and again, nobody better than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to do that."

In tearful farewell address, Biden thanks Delaware, remembers late son

President-elect Joe Biden bid a tearful farewell to Delaware on Tuesday, thanking the people of his home state and emotionally reminiscing about his late son Beau in his penultimate speech before his inaugural address.

Speaking at a send-off event in Wilmington, where Biden had headquartered his presidential campaign and, later, his presidential transition, Biden repeatedly broke down weeping as he spoke.

“Excuse the emotion, but when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart. And the hearts of all. We love you all. You've been there for us in the good and the bad. You never walked away. And I am proud, proud, proud to be a son of Delaware," Biden said, with tears streaming down his face.

"And I am even more proud to be standing here doing this from the Major Beau Biden facility. Ladies and gentlemen, I only have one regret. He's not here. Because we should be introducing him as president," added Biden, who continued crying.

Read the story.

Democrats race to push Biden's agenda after transition delays, GOP infighting


Leigh Ann Caldwell

Frank Thorp Vproducer and off-air reporter

Sahil Kapur, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Julie Tsirkin and Frank Thorp V

After weeks of Republican infighting over President-elect Joe Biden's victory, which culminated in the deadly siege of the Capitol two weeks ago by supporters of President Donald Trump, Democrats are now racing to help Biden get to work on day one.

Democrats will officially capture the Senate on Wednesday when, according to two sources, three new members will be sworn in during the afternoon: Georgia winners Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, and California's Alex Padilla, the appointee to replace Kamala Harris, who resigned on Monday two days before her vice presidential inauguration.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the outgoing majority leader, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will take over as leader of the chamber, are planning to meet Tuesday to discuss various items, according to multiple sources. They will talk about Covid-19 relief, the logistics of an impeachment trial of outgoing President Donald Trump, Biden's nominations and finalizing how power will be divided in a chamber split 50-50 between the two parties, the sources said.

Read the story.

Will the Biden administration be able to stop evictions of tenants hurt by Covid?

NBC News

In spite of a federal moratorium barring ousters of tenants who attest they have been affected by Covid, eviction filings continue to course through the country. These proceedings harm renters in many ways: Evictions often result in job losses, academic research shows, and generally appear on credit reports, making it difficult for renters to find new residences. Eviction costs can also be added to rent bills, increasing the amounts ultimately owed by renters to their landlords.

Recognizing the ravages of evictions, President-elect Joe Biden has called on Congress to provide another $30 billion in rental assistance, on top of the $25 billion set aside in the December 2020 stimulus package. He has also requested an unspecified amount of money for legal aid and an extension of the moratorium, which was imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through Sept. 30.

But a moratorium only works if it is well-enforced, tenant advocates say, and actual evictions are still happening, according to legal aid practitioners.

"While the CDC order imposes criminal penalties on landlords who violate the moratorium, no entity or persons are enforcing the order and there is no mechanism for renters to file complaints against landlords who violate the order," said Diane Yentl, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Read the story.

McConnell: Capitol rioters were 'fed lies' and 'provoked by the president'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday on the Senate floor that the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 were "fed lies" and were "provoked" by Trump and others.

"The last time the Senate convened we had just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty. The mob was fed lies," McConnell said. 

"They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government, which they did not like," he added.

McConnell also acknowledged that the House has impeached Trump and that the Senate is waiting for the lower chamber to transmit the article so that a trial can begin. 

The Trump years in pictures: From the Women's March to the Capitol riot

NBC News

In a presidency marked by polarization, Donald Trump’s term has seen conflict at the border, successful strikes overseas and unusual photo opportunities.

President Donald Trump

Pelosi recounts the moment she was whisked away from House floor during riot

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., recounted in an interview with Hillary Clinton the moment she was whisked away from the House floor on Jan. 6, when the Capitol was breached by a pro-Trump mob.

"We were having the debate when the security just pulled me off the podium," Pelosi told Clinton on her "You and Me Both" podcast. "Sometimes the staff takes me off the podium when they think the Republicans are going to do something obnoxious, and I went, 'No, I can handle it. I can handle it.' And they said, 'No, you have to go,' so fast that I even left my phone on the podium," 

"They just pulled me right out. And they said at that point that they were storming the Capitol and the security just whisked [me] away. But it was stunning," she said. "I'm a target, you know? So, when we got in the car, I said, 'Well, where are we going? Like to another room?' ... 'No, we're going to an undisclosed location.'"

Pelosi told Clinton that she has asked House Democrats to write a journal about their experience on Jan. 6 at the Capitol, when Congress was meeting to count the Electoral College votes. The speaker said that she was with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., that day and they all agreed they needed to go back to the Capitol to finish the counting of the electoral votes. She said that decision was "bipartisan" and that McConnell was "very insistent" that they finish it. 

Pelosi said that she was in touch with Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the count, throughout the day while they were in undisclosed locations, and that "he was a positive factor in the course of the day."

Pompeo denounces multiculturalism on last full day as secretary of state

Abigail Williams

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized “multiculturalism” on Tuesday, his last full day as America’s top diplomat, saying in a tweet that it was “not who America is." 

“Woke-ism, multiculturalism, all the -isms — they're not who America is,” Pompeo wrote. “They distort our glorious founding and what this country is all about. Our enemies stoke these divisions because they know they make us weaker.”

The tweet came just a day after Pompeo commemorated the national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., saying in a starkly contrasting tweet that the civil rights leader "devoted his life to upholding the unalienable rights of all Americans. Today we honor his work in advancing social justice and equality in the United States by serving our communities and country.”

The comments come less than two weeks after pro-Trump rioters, some bearing Confederate flags and other symbols of white supremacist and far-right extremist groups, stormed the U.S. Capitol. Pompeo called the attack “unacceptable” and said the perpetrators needed to be brought to justice, but he has remained one of the strongest defenders of Trump even as the president was impeached for inciting the attack.

Earlier this month, in a speech to an audience of Voice of America employees, Pompeo condemned “censorship, wokeness and political correctness” as “authoritarianism, cloaked as moral righteousness.”

DNI nominee Haines vows to provide public assessment of QAnon threat

Image: Avril Haines s during her confirmation hearing in Washington
Avril Haines at her confirmation hearing in Washington on Jan. 19, 2021.Joe Raedle / Pool via Reuters

Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, told senators at her confirmation hearing Tuesday that she would provide a public assessment of the QAnon threat. 

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., asked Haines if Haines would provide a "public written assessment of the threat QAnon poses to our country."

"I will," she said.

Haines said she was aware of a letter Heinrich and others sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray last month asking for such an assessment. She said she would work with the Department of Homeland Security and FBI to "get you an answer to that question," adding that the assessment would include looking at "particular foreign influence operations and how those are affecting Qanon" and "exacerbating" misinformation.

Michigan Gov. Whitmer to attend inauguration

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was the target last year of a kidnapping plot by members of militia groups scheming to overthrow the government, announced Tuesday that she will attend Biden's inauguration.

Whitmer, who is a co-chair of Biden's inaugural committee, said she is "honored" to attend and ready to work with him and Harris "to fight this virus, save lives, and put the country back on track."

"The country is ready for a leader who listens to medical experts to lead our country's Covid-19 response and works on behalf of hardworking Americans," she said in a statement.

Before the plot against the Democratic governor came to light, political tensions in her state had been rising over restrictions she imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, resulting in rallies in Lansing in which armed protesters took to the state Capitol.

Whitmer has condemned Trump for refusing to condemn groups like those allegedly involved in the f1oiled scheme, pointing to remarks he made about the "Proud Boys" group during the first presidential debate. The president had also tweeted "LIBERATE MICHIGAN" when the state was under stringent shutdown orders.

Two National Guard members removed from Biden inauguration security

The Associated Press

Two U.S. Army National Guard members are being removed from the security mission to secure Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration. A U.S. Army official and a senior U.S. intelligence official say the two National Guard members have been found to have ties to fringe right group militias.

No plot against Biden was found.

The Army official and the intelligence official spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity due to Defense Department media regulations. They did not say what fringe group the guard members belonged to or what unit they served in.

Contacted by the AP on Tuesday, the National Guard Bureau referred questions to the U.S. Secret Service and said, “Due to operational security, we do not discuss the process nor the outcome of the vetting process for military members supporting the inauguration.”

The Secret Service told the AP on Monday it would not comment on if any National Guard members had been pulled from securing the inauguration for operational security reasons.

Sen. Blunt, who oversees inaugural ceremony: 'I feel good about where we are on security'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said Tuesday that he feels "good" about security at the Capitol for the inauguration on Wednesday.

"I feel good about where we are on security," Blunt told reporters when asked if he has any concerns. "But you know, as I said, four years ago when I chaired this, my — somebody asked me, ‘What was your best moment of the inauguration?’ I said, ‘When everybody got back inside.'" 

"I mean, it's clearly always a moment of where our governments is ... at its most vulnerable, but also an important moment where we project our strength as a democracy. So I'm feeling good about it, but I'm staying totally focused on that as much as I can," he added.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., meanwhile, said on MSNBC that she thinks the heightened security measures will have to stay in place for the time being.

"I hate to say this, and here I'm speaking again in my dual role as a resident and as a member of Congress, I think it has to stay in place. But the longer it stays in place, the worse it is for my neighbors and for the residents of the District of Columbia," she said Tuesday. "This is the price we pay for being the nation's capital. We're willing to pay it."

What Trump's doing on his final full day in office

After four turbulent years, Tuesday is President Trump's final full day in office.

The president has not been seen publicly in a week and he has no public events on his schedule. An administration official confirms to NBC News that Trump recorded a farewell video, but the official provided no details about its contents or when it would be released.

After shattering norms and ignoring traditions since he stepped foot in office, the president has been urged by advisers and allies to at least call President-elect Biden or leave him a note in the Oval Office before he leaves Washington, a person close to the president confirms. But a Trump ally says nothing has been written yet. In either case, it would be a downgrade, after advisers, just last week, suggested Trump host Biden at the White House for a meeting, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

On Monday afternoon, Trump met in the Oval Office with advisers, including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, to discuss the final list of pardons and commutations, a White House official tells NBC News. He’s still expected to release dozens before his terms expires on Wednesday.

Congressional leaders to attend church with Biden tomorrow

Alex Moe

The top four congressional leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will be attending church with President-Elect Joe Biden Wednesday morning, the day of his inauguration, according to multiple sources.

This was first reported by Punchbowl News. 

FIRST READ: Biden's first task is his most crucial and obvious: Vaccinate America


Mark Murray

Carrie Dann

Melissa Holzberg

Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann and Melissa Holzberg

Facing a pessimistic public, holding middling poll numbers for an incoming president (higher than Trump’s, lower than Obama’s) and dealing with a predecessor who’s yet to concede the election he lost, Joe Biden isn’t getting much of a honeymoon.

But Biden has this going for him after he takes the oath of office on Wednesday: one clear job — to get vaccines into as many American arms as possible.

Nothing he will say in his inaugural address and no executive order he will issue in his first days will be more important than achieving his goal of injecting 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days as president.

If he gets that right, he will oversee a less pessimistic American public; he’ll get a stronger economy; and he’ll do something that his predecessor was unable to execute in his final days.

Get more First Read.

As Trump's top diplomat, Pompeo sought to position himself as the president's successor

Abigail Williams

Dan De Luce and Abigail Williams

In the final days of Donald Trump's presidency, one top deputy has remained steadfastly loyal, even as others have distanced themselves or resigned in protest.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has doubled down on his defense of Trump, criticizing those who have broken ranks and ingratiating himself with Trump's followers, who will be vital for his own presidential ambitions.

"I think history will remember us very well," Pompeo told a group of House Republicans only days after Trump egged on a mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

"While I think we all think the violence that took place in the place where you all work in the Capitol was tragic, I've watched people walk away from this president already. And they are not listening to the American people. Not remotely," Pompeo said.

Pompeo's close alignment with Trump defined his tenure as America's top diplomat. Both his supporters and his critics believe Pompeo worked to place himself in the line of political succession, whether Trump remained king or became kingmaker.

Read the story.

Trump baby blimp enters Museum of London collection

The Associated Press

A six-meter high cartoon baby blimp of President Donald Trump flies in protest against his visit in London on July 13, 2018.Matt Dunham / AP file

LONDON — The Trump Baby Blimp will live on long after its namesake has left the White House.

The Museum of London said Monday that it had added the giant balloon, which depicts Donald Trump as a screaming orange baby, to its collection as an illustration of the protests that greeted the U.S. president when he visited the city in 2018.

“By collecting the baby blimp, we can mark the wave of feeling that washed over the city that day and capture a particular moment of resistance,” Sharon Ament, the museum's director, said in a statement.

Read the story.

Biden picks transgender woman as assistant health secretary

The Associated Press

President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, leaving her poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

A pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, Levine was appointed to her current post by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017, making her one of the few transgender people serving in elected or appointed positions nationwide. She won past confirmation by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate and has emerged as the public face of the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond," Biden said in a statement. "She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

Read the story.

By the numbers: A statistical look at Trump's four years in office

Mark Murray

The Dow Jones Average has increased by more than 10,000 points since outgoing President Donald Trump’s inauguration four years ago.

But consumer confidence — due in large part to the coronavirus pandemic — is down, while the national unemployment rate is up a full 2 percentage points from Jan. 2017.

Economic growth is exponentially higher as of the last quarter. (But that’s also because it was catastrophically lower in the preceding quarter due to the coronavirus.)

And the federal budget deficit is more than five times higher than what it was when Trump first took office, while the public debt has grown by nearly $8 trillion.

These numbers tell only part of the story of Trump’s presidency, failing to capture the tweets, controversies, Supreme Court nominations and impeachments — plural — during his four years in the Oval Office. But they do help frame the overall economic and financial environment that existed before Trump became president and the one that exists as he leaves office on Jan. 20.

Read the story.

Law enforcement and the military probing whether members took part in Capitol riot

Former and current members of law enforcement agencies and the military appear to have participated in last week's chaos in Washington, alarming lawmakers on Capitol Hill and Americans nationwide as each day brings new video and information about the riot and the rioters.

Investigations by law enforcement agencies and news organizations, along with a series of arrests, have exposed a widening issue of domestic extremism among the ranks of those who are meant to protect Americans.

On Monday, even the U.S. Capitol Police announced that the agency had suspended "several" of its own and will investigate at least 10 officers for their actions.

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Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla to be sworn into the Senate on Wednesday


Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Frank Thorp Vproducer and off-air reporter

Rebecca Shabad, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Frank Thorp V and Julie Tsirkin

Senators-elect Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla will be sworn in Wednesday in the "late afternoon" by incoming Vice President Kamala Harris, according to two sources familiar with the plan. 

Ossoff and Warnock won their Senate runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5 and California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Padilla to fill Harris' seat, which she resigned from on Monday. 

Once Harris and the three senator are sworn in, the Senate will be divided 50-50, but Democrats will hold the majority because Harris will be able to cast tie-breaking votes as vice president. 

Senate leaders Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are working on a power-sharing agreement for a 50-50 Senate, according to a source familiar with the process. The deal would determine how the Senate and committees operate in an evenly divided Senate.

The two are expected to talk Tuesday about that as well as Trump's upcoming impeachment trial, confirmation hearings for Biden nominees and coronavirus relief. 

FBI vetting service members ahead of inauguration amid reported fears of insider attack

Mosheh Gains

Mosheh Gains and Rachel Elbaum

Defense officials say they are worried about an inside attack or some other threat from service members involved in securing President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, The Associated Press reported.

As a result, the FBI is vetting all service members on hand in the capital to support the inauguration, an Army official told NBC News on Sunday.

"The Army is working with the FBI to vet all service members supporting the Inauguration National Special Security Event," the official said.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the AP that officials were conscious of the potential threat, and he warned commanders to be on the lookout for any issues as the inauguration approaches.

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The stakes are high for Biden's inaugural address. Here's what to expect.

As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office facing more crises than any other president in modern American history, the stakes for his inaugural address couldn't be higher.

A transition official said that Biden worked on the speech over the weekend with family members and his senior adviser Mike Donilon and that the address will emphasize familiar themes from his campaign: unity, healing and a vision for the many crises the country faces.

Advisers also said the address will echo some of Biden's recent speeches, which have doubled as opportunities to test inaugural themes. As he unveiled his $1.9 trillion economic package last week, Biden said bipartisanship was essential to addressing the economy and the Covid-19 pandemic: "Unity is not some pie-in-the-sky dream — it's a practical step to getting the things we have to get done as a country get done together," he said.

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Census Bureau director to resign amid allegations of pressure to produce immigrant count

The Associated Press

Facing criticism over efforts to produce citizenship data to comply with an order from President Donald Trump, U.S. Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham said Monday that he planned to resign with the change in presidential administrations.

Dillingham said in a statement that he would resign on Wednesday, the day Trump leaves the White House and President-elect Joseph Biden takes office.

The Census Bureau director’s plan to resign comes as the statistical agency is in the middle of crunching the numbers for the 2020 census, which will be used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.

Last week, Democratic lawmakers called on Dillingham to resign after a watchdog agency said he had set a deadline that pressured statisticians to produce a report on the number of people in the U.S. illegally.

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

Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday in a ceremony that will keep with tradition while being unlike any other inauguration in U.S. history.

There will be pomp, ceremony, former presidents, congressional leaders, A-list performers, parades and tributes to the troops — but 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 almost 400,000 people in the U.S., and possible domestic terrorism after the deadly violence at the U.S. Capitol.

One thing there won't be is an argument that Biden will have drawn the biggest crowd in inauguration history — he and officials in Washington, D.C., hope it will be the smallest, with people watching from their couches instead of the National Mall.

The day's events will be far more star-studded than Donald Trump's inauguration, which was headlined by country singers Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood. Among those participating Wednesday are pop superstars Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, rock icon Bruce Springsteen and country superstar Garth Brooks.

Here's what to expect on Inauguration Day — and night.

Latinos in the Biden administration shoulder high expectations, urgency to undo Trump policies

Obama White House veterans Julie Chávez Rodriguez and Adrian Saenz are heading back to Pennsylvania Avenue this week with a sense of urgency and a feeling of starting from scratch.

President-elect Joe Biden, who is to take the oath of office Wednesday, made Chávez Rodríguez his director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, while Saenz will be deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement.

Chávez Rodríguez, Saenz and other Latinos in the Biden administration will be shouldering some high expectations from a nation on edge after the riot on the U.S. Capitol and President Donald Trump's second impeachment — during a pandemic and the economic fallout that has robbed people of work and paychecks.

"It's not going to be easy. I don't go into any of this with rose-colored glasses," said Chávez Rodríguez, the granddaughter of the civil rights icon and labor leader César Chavez.

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Gary Gensler, Biden's pick to head SEC, has reputation as tough regulator

Martha C. White

In nominating Gary Gensler to serve as chairman for the Securities and Exchange Commission, President-elect Joe Biden is likely to please progressives, who have been agitating for more bank oversight after four years of deregulatory policy under President Donald Trump’s SEC pick, Jay Clayton, who stepped down in December.

“Gensler is a terrific choice to head the agency," said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America. "He’s as knowledgeable about the markets as anyone on Wall Street, so he can’t be intimidated. He’s a seasoned regulator who knows how to get things done.”

Gensler spent 18 years at Goldman Sachs before joining the Treasury Department during the Clinton administration. Following a stint at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — where he earned a reputation as a tough regulator — he served as an economic adviser for Hillary Clinton’s 2012 and 2016 presidential bids, and since the 2020 election, he has led the Biden transition team’s financial regulatory group.

At the CFTC, “Gary proved he was relentless and effective at adopting and implementing difficult rules. He worked very quickly, very thoughtfully, very aggressively,” said Tyler Gellasch, executive director of investor advocacy group Healthy Markets.

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Avril Haines, Biden's pick for top spy, to tell Senate she'll keep politics out of intelligence analysis

Joe Biden's nominee to lead America's vast spying bureaucracy is expected to tell senators weighing her confirmation that she will protect whistleblowers, speak truth to power and keep politics out of intelligence analysis, according to excerpts of her prepared statement obtained by NBC News.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday to consider the nomination of Avril Haines, who was a national security official during the Obama administration, to become director of national intelligence. She would oversee 18 intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the National Security Agency.

Haines, who was deputy CIA director and deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, will also tell lawmakers that she intends to prioritize countering China, bolstering cyber defenses and anticipating the next pandemic, according to the prepared remarks.

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

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

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.

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


Carol E. LeeCarol E. Lee is the Washington managing editor.

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.

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

Geoff Bennett

Phil Helsel and Geoff Bennett

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.

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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.

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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

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

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.

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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.

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

Mark Murray

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

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.

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