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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.

This live coverage has ended. For full politics coverage, head to nbcnews.com.

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.

Pelosi suggests Trump could be an accessory to murder for inciting Capitol attack

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggested Tuesday that Trump could be an accessory to murder because of his incitement of the Jan. 6 riot that led to the storming of the Capitol. 

"Presidents' words are important, they weigh a ton. And if you're Donald Trump talking to these people, they believe it and they used his words to come here," Pelosi said in an interview with MSNBC's Joy Reid that was recorded Tuesday afternoon and aired at 10 p.m. ET.

Pelosi said that it "remains to be seen" whether any of her congressional colleagues collaborated with the mob. 

"We have to get the evidence of that. And if they did, they would be accessory to the crime. And the crime, in some cases, was murder," she said. "And this president is an accessory to that crime because he instigated that insurrection that caused those deaths and this destruction."

A Capitol Police officer and four other people died during the riot that day.

The House impeached Trump last week for his role inciting an insurrection and the Senate will soon hold a trial to determine whether to convict him. 

Trump signs last-minute executive order reversing five-year lobbying ban he instituted

Trump early Wednesday reversed an ethics executive order that he signed just days after he took office in January 2017 as part of his pledge to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C.

The order from four years ago had banned executive branch employees for five years from lobbying any agency where they had served. It also instituted a lifetime ban on lobbying for a foreign government.

The White House released a new executive order rescinding the old one but didn't say why Trump took the action. 

Trump pardons Steve Bannon along with dozens of others in final hours in office

President Donald Trump issued a wave of pardons Tuesday night, using the final hours of his presidency to grant clemency to 143 people, including former top White House aide Steve Bannon, according to a list made public by the White House on Wednesday morning.

Bannon — Trump's former chief strategist in the White House who was in charge of the final months of his 2016 presidential campaign — was indicted in August along with three others on wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors alleged that Bannon’s crowdfunding “We Build the Wall” campaign took hundreds of thousands of donated dollars and used them for personal expenses. He was brought into custody by U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents while on board the yacht of Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui.

Trump distanced himself from Bannon following the arrest, calling it a “very sad thing” for Bannon and insisted that he was not in favor of private funding for his border wall. The president called the effort “showboating.” “I know nothing about the project, other than I didn’t like, when I read about it, I didn’t like it,” Trump said.

Read the story.

Increasingly militant 'Parler refugees' and anxious QAnon adherents prep for doomsday

Liesa Norris got a panicked phone call Monday from her brother. He told her to buy a ham radio.

The radio, he explained, would be one of the few ways they could communicate once President Donald Trump launched his plans to take permanent power.

"We were dancing around the subject, and then he just brought up that on the 20th, you know, the truth is going to come out," Norris said. "He was just going on and on about how we needed to have ham radios because we're not going to be able to talk on regular phones and everything is going to be dark."

Trump has no such plans. But in the fractured QAnon community, which has turned to a variety of smaller messaging apps and YouTube to keep spreading conspiracy theories, evidence-free reports of a nationwide blackout and impending martial law Wednesday have become a last stand for true believers that Trump will be president after Inauguration Day.

Read the story.

McConnell says impeachment Thursday 'at the earliest'

In a letter to his Republican colleagues sent Monday night, obtained by NBC News and confirmed by a source, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate faces “unprecedented challenges,” pointing to the inauguration, impeachment and an evenly divided Senate. 

He indicated that “the first formal steps” for impeachment “should wait until Thursday at the earliest” because of the inauguration.

Pence to return to Indiana on Wednesday

Vice President Mike Pence will return to Indiana on Wednesday, shortly after he becomes the former vice president at noon.

After attending the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, Pence will fly by government plane to Columbus, Indiana, where the state GOP announced in a release that he will “thank friends and longtime supporters.” He will arrive at 2:45 p.m., a source familiar told NBC News.

The soon-to-be former vice president, who tweeted a thank you message on Tuesday, is expected to split his time between Indiana and Washington for the foreseeable future but intends to return to Indiana later this year permanently.