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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

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.

Bidens take in fireworks as inauguration celebration ends

Bidens watch spectacular firework show from White House balcony

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden were joined by their family on the Blue Room Balcony to watch fireworks at the end of the prime-time inauguration special "Celebrating America."

Image: The Biden family
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden stand on the Blue Room Balcony as they and family members watch fireworks at the end of a prime-time special, "Celebrating America."Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

Chrissy Teigen among Biden's official Twitter handle's first dozen follows

President Joe Biden's Twitter Cabinet currently includes 11 trusted aides — and Chrissy Teigen.

With hours-old control of Biden's official Twitter feed @POTUS, the new administration's first dozen follows included predicable names like Susan Rice, Kate Bedingfield and Ron Klain.

The only non-government name was Teigen, the model and outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump. Hours before Biden took the oath of office, Teigen tweeted at him: "I have been blocked by the president for four years can I get a follow plz." 

By Wednesday night, Teigen's presidentialrequest was granted and she appeared to be pleased. Her husband, John Legend, also performed during the inaugural celebration Wednesday night.

Three former presidents show what unity looks like

Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton came together to deliver a video message not only to their successor but also to all Americans in the wake of Donald Trump's presidency. 

"I think if Americans would love their neighbor like they liked to be loved themselves, a lot of the division in our society would end," Bush said. 

"That's what this means," Clinton added. "It's a new beginning, and everybody needs to get off their high horse and reach out to their friends and neighbors."

That the three presidents, two Democrats and a Republican, could come together is a sign that Americans can overcome anything if they work together, the three said.

"As Americans we have more in common than what separates us," Obama said.

Vice President Harris on 'American aspiration'

Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, Vice President Kamala Harris took a brief departure from the theme of unity to celebrate "American aspiration."

"We not only see what has been, we see what can be," she said. "We are bold, fearless and ambitious. We are undaunted in our belief that we shall overcome, that we shall rise up. This is American aspiration."

Harris went on to invoke those who came before her, including President Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and the women who fought for voting rights. 

"A great experiment takes great determination, the will to do the work and then the wisdom to keep refining, keep tinkering, keep perfecting," she said.

Celebrity chef José Andrés calls attention to food insecurity in America

Celebrity chef José Andrés, a Washington local, called attention to food insecurity in America, saying 1 in 4 people are experiencing hunger. 

Andrés, a Spanish immigrant, has been a vocal advocate for helping those in need through his organization World Central Kitchen, which has been providing fresh meals to National Guard members sent to Washington ahead of the inauguration. He also helped deliver pizza to National Guard members and law enforcement officers stationed near the U.S. Capitol on the night of the Jan. 6 riot.

"I am a chef who believes food is not just a luxury for the lucky few — it's a basic human right to live free from hunger," he said. "But today, we have a hunger crisis in America."

Biden takes the stage, invokes unity and Martin Luther King Jr.

President Joe Biden invoked the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 during the March on Washington and delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech amid racial reckoning across the country.

"There are moments in our history when more is asked of us as Americans," said Biden, who also unveiled a bust of King that now sits in the Oval Office. "We are in one of those moments now."

He pointed to multiple crises facing the country, including the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and racial inequality. 

"Are we up to it?" Biden asked. "Will we meet the moment like our forebears have? I believe we must, and I believe we will."

Senior FBI official: Wray has no indication Biden is dissatisfied with him

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki prompted some raised eyebrows in law enforcement and intelligence circles when she declined to say, in response to a question from NBC News' Peter Alexander that President Biden has confidence in FBI Director Christopher Wray.

A senior FBI official said tonight that Wray has been given no indication that Biden or his team is dissatisfied with him and that “the sentiments shared have all been positive.”

FBI directors serve 10 year terms designed to preserve a measure of independence, but as we all learned, they can be removed by the president. Wray and those around him in recent months have been very concerned he would be fired by Trump. Whether the questions swirling around the FBI’s handling of the intelligence gathered in advance of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot have imperiled Wray’s future in a Biden administration is a question that merits more reporting.

Some influential voices have been critical. David Lauffman, a senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, has said, for example, that the FBI is supposed to thwart domestic terrorism, and “it’s not clear if FBI exercised the urgent, national leadership necessary to maximize protection of the Capitol.”

Harris' move to traditional vice president's home delayed

Vice President Kamala Harris will delay her move into the Naval Observatory, the traditional residence of the vice president, while repairs are done on the 128-year-old home, a Harris aide said.

The aide didn't have an estimated move-in date. The repairs will include work on the chimney and other household maintenance.

Former Vice President Mike Pence vacated the house Wednesday afternoon. Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, have a home in Washington. The news was first reported by CBS.

'That's Cesar Chavez!': Bust of civil rights icon behind President Biden stirs excitement

A bust of the civil and labor rights leader Cesar Chavez behind President Joe Biden stirred excitement among Latinos watching the historic moment.

"I literally jumped out of my chair and yelled: 'That's Cesar Chavez! Cesar Chavez!'" said Darryl Morin, national president of the advocacy group Forward Latino, who saw it on TV.

Chavez's bust sat on a console among family photos behind Biden as the newly inaugurated president sat at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office and signed a slew of executive orders, including one on racial equity and another to combat the Covid-19 pandemic — which has been brutal to farmworkers whom Chavez championed.

The bust quickly attracted attention on social media — and drew praise from the Chavez family. "Placing a bust of my father in the Oval Office symbolizes the hopeful new day that is dawning for our nation," said Paul Chavez, the civil rights icon's son.

Read the full story. 

Tom Hanks kicks off inauguration celebration with somber message

Actor Tom Hanks kicked off inauguration night in atypical fashion. Rather than hosting the evening from a ballroom filled with balloons and celebration, he spoke somberly in front of the Lincoln Memorial and said tonight is about "witnessing the permanence of our American ideal."

"The last few weeks and the last few years we've witnessed deep divisions and a troubling rancor in our land," he said. "Tonight we ponder the United states of America,, the practice of our democracy, the foundations of our republic, the integrity of our Constitution, the hope and dreams we all share for a more perfect union."

Hanks and his wife, actor Rita Wilson, were the first major celebrities to announce they had contracted the coronavirus last year. His presence tonight seemed to underscore the new administration's commitment to tackling the ongoing pandemic rather downplaying the challenges ahead.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says daily briefings will be ... daily

White House press secretary Jen Psaki committed to restoring daily news conferences in her first formal briefing Wednesday evening, highlighting President Joe Biden's commitment to truth-telling and curbing the spread of disinformation. 

Biden's "objective and his commitment is to bring transparency and truth back to government, to share the truth even when it's hard to hear," Psaki said from the briefing podium. 

In addition to reinstating the daily briefings, Psaki said she plans to bring back briefings with public health officials who can speak about the Covid-19 crisis in a "dependable way with data."

Psaki's comments are a sharp break from the practices in the Trump administration, when press secretaries rarely appeared for questions, at times going months without holding formal briefings. 

When they did appear, many used the platform to peddle false information and to attack the media and former President Donald Trump's political opponents. 

U.S. diplomats told to re-engage with WHO in first State Department cable of Biden administration

Abigail Williams

The State Department has instructed U.S. diplomats to re-engage with the World Health Organization in the first State Department-wide cable sent since outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's departure.

In the memo obtained by NBC News, Acting Secretary of State Dan Smith tells U.S. embassies to "resume regular engagement" and reverses the Trump administration's decision to recall U.S. personnel. The cable was first reported by CNN.

"United States departments and agencies are instructed to cease the drawdown of U.S. staffing at WHO, resume regular engagement of U.S. government personnel with the WHO, and seek to fulfill our financial obligations to the organization," the memo said.

U.S. posts were advised to expect additional information about America's posture toward the international organization, as well as guidance about the country's participation with the WHO executive board, which is occurring this week.

A second cable from Smith arrived shortly afterward informing all U.S. posts that the previous guidance for delegations' participation at international conferences is "null and void effective immediately" and to expect a new process to be run promptly.

Senate confirms Avril Haines as Biden's intelligence director

The Senate voted 84-10 to confirm Avril Haines as director of national intelligence Wednesday, making her the first of President Joe Biden's Cabinet official to be approved by the chamber.

"Avril Haines was the right choice for Director of National Intelligence. We appreciate the bipartisan cooperation to get her confirmed tonight, and we hope there will be a lot more of it because the nation is in crisis and we need President Biden's team in place as quickly as possible," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement.

The 10 opponents were all Republicans: Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, James Risch of Idaho, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Braun of Indiana.

All-girls schools across U.S. celebrate the first female VP

After Vice President Harris was sworn in on Wednesday, all-girls schools across the country celebrated the historic milestone all over social media.

The Oldfields School in Sparks Glencoe, Maryland, posted a photo on its Facebook page of students watching a broadcast of the inauguration.


The school wrote in the caption, “As we watch history being made on so many levels at today's inauguration, we celebrate the empowerment of women, by women.”

The Atlanta Girls School posted a photo of Harris on its Instagram account explaining what her election means to the school community.

“Today we celebrate the opening of doors for women and girls to hold positions of power and leadership!” the post stated. 

Educators of these schools said they are hopeful for what the future holds, including Dr. April Lyman Williams, the principal of Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy in Houston, Texas. 

“We are so proud to celebrate theFirst Woman VP of the United States of America. A new day is dawning!” she wrote on Twitter.

Biden to new political appointees: Be decent to one another — or else

Image: Joe Biden Marks His Inauguration With Full Day Of Events
President Joe Biden during a virtual swearing-in ceremony for members of his new administration at the White House on Wednesday.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Joe Biden gave about 1,000 political appointees a virtual swearing-in on Wednesday — and some words of warning about the importance of "honesty and decency."  

"We have to restore the soul of this country, and we're counting on all of you to be part of that. It's not hyperbole. The only thing I expect with absolute certitude is honesty and decency — the way you treat one another, the way you treat the people you deal with. And I mean that sincerely," he said.

"Remember: The people don't work for us. We work for the people. I work for the people. They pay my salary. They pay your salary. They put their faith in you. I put my own faith in you. And so we have an obligation," Biden said.

He also said he expects his appointees to be kind with their co-workers and one another.

"If you've ever worked with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you: I will fire you on the spot. On the spot," Biden said.

Obama, Bush, Clinton record joint video focusing on 'the majesty of the passage of power'

Former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama recorded a rare joint video, which is set to air Wednesday night.

It's a "free-flowing conversation," aides to two of the former president's confirmed, focusing on "the majesty of the passage of power, importance of upholding democracy and staying civically engaged."

An inaugural official said that the conversation among the three former presidents was recorded in the Amphitheater at Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday afternoon while they were waiting for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and that it will air in the last segment of Wednesday night's prime-time programming. 

The best of 'United America,' the first virtual inauguration parade

Randi Richardson

Image: Virtual parade for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States
Members of the Kilgore College Rangerettes participate in a virtual parade from Texas on Wednesday.Biden Inaugural Committee / via Reuters

The first virtual "Parade Across America" began with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris driving and walking the traditional parade route. Then it went fully online with musical performances and videos submitted from people across the country. The parade exemplified the theme of United America, with a diversity of people and performances rallying for a single message.

Here are some of the parade's most memorable highlights:

Andra Day performed her song "Rise Up" while young skater Kaitlyn Saunders, 10, elegantly glided to it in Black Lives Matter Plaza with a series of turns and jumps. The song tells a story of rising up together after being "broken down and tired."

High school and college bands from different backgrounds performed celebratory arrangements. The Isiserettes Drill and Drum Corp in Des Moines, Iowa, danced in a recently shoveled lot to a drumline, while the Kilgore College Rangerettes in Texas formed lines to do high kicks in sync with a full band.

DJ Cassidy, Earth, Wind and Fire and Sister Sledge led an activity called "Pass the Mic" with their respective hits "Sing a Song" and "We Are Family." Families came on screen with recorded videos of them singing along.

Athletes in wheelchairs virtually dribbled around and put up a few shots before passing the basketball to one another and, eventually, to NBA legend Grant Hill and current NBA star Chris Paul, who congratulated the new administration and said, "Let's get United, America."

The in-person parade also had notable moments, including Howard University's Showtime Marching Band's escorted Harris to the vice president's home.


The virtual festivities continue at 8 p.m. ET with a prime-time special, "Celebrating America," hosted by Tom Hanks and featuring performances by Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Legend, Bruce Springsteen, Demi Lovato and others.

Biden rejoins Paris climate pact. Scientists hope the best is yet to come.

Hours after Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, his first actions in the White House included signing two executive orders related to climate change — a move that environmental activists say heralds an administration that is ready to take bold steps to undo the damage done over the past four years.

That the executive orders came on the day of his inauguration signals that Biden is serious about the commitments made on the campaign trail to prioritize climate action, said Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, a clean transportation advocate for GreenLatinos, a nonprofit organization that focuses on environmental and conservation issues that affect the Latino community.

"The administration is sending a message, and it's really exciting and important that these conversations are happening so early," Marpillero-Colomina said. "My hope is that these actions are just the beginning of a sustained climate-oriented agenda."

Read the full story.

'A generational shift': Ossoff reflects on being the first millennial senator

WASHINGTON — Moments after becoming the first millennial senator, Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., said he will be a voice for young Americans.

"This marks a generational shift in the Senate," Ossoff, 33, said in a brief interview in the Capitol.

"I have been consulting colleagues of all ages and from both parties about how to be most effective. I'm taking that advice, and I'm also committed to being a voice for young folks in this country who lack representation in this body," he added.

He said his top priority will be to provide "direct financial relief for the American people and fully funding the public health response to tackle this Covid-19 pandemic."

Biden issues executive orders on climate, racial equity and Covid-19

Dartunorro Clark

Image: Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States
President Biden signs executive orders in the Oval Office on Wednesday.Tom Brenner / Reuters

President Biden signed three executive orders on Wednesday amid a flurry of new administrative actions, promising sweeping reforms to climate policy, racial inequities and a federal mask mandate. 

“There's no time to start like today," Biden told reporters in the Oval Office while wearing a mask.

The Executive Orders are:

Covid-19:  Biden's executive order on masks requires employees and contractors to wear face coverings in all federal buildings and on federal land — a departure from Trump's White House. Biden is asking all Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days.

Racial equity: He directed federal agencies to review "the state of equity" in their agencies and deliver plans "to address unequal barriers to opportunity in agency policies and programs," according to a fact sheet detailing the executive actions. He also tasked the Office of Management and Budget to more equitably allocate federal resources to "empower and invest in communities of color and other underserved communities."

Climate - Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, a global pact signed in 2016 to combat the threat of catastrophic climate change. Trump formally withdrew the U.S. from the landmark agreement last year.

Read more about his first-day actions.

Biden calls Trump letter 'very generous'

President Biden told reporters the letter Donald Trump left for him in the Oval Office was "very generous," but declined to give specifics.

“President Trump wrote a very generous letter. Because it was private, I won’t talk about it before I talk to him, but it was generous,” Biden told reporters as he signed executive orders at the Resolute Desk.

There had been speculation that Trump — who never conceded the election to Biden and didn't attend his inauguration — would not continue the decadeslong tradition of leaving a note in the desk for his successor, but a White House spokesman told NBC News earlier Wednesday that Trump had done so.  

Trump supporters threatened state capitols but failed to show on Inauguration Day

Image: Trump supporter in Albany, N.Y.
A Trump supporter holds a banner outside the New York State Capitol in Albany on Wednesday.Hans Pennink / AP

National Guard troops on high alert, police barricades lining the streets, government buildings shuttered — the surreal high-security scene in Washington was mirrored at state capitols across the country Wednesday as a nervous nation braced for more violence by Trump supporters opposed to the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

In the two weeks since the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, concerned that the right-wing extremists who continue to back former President Donald Trump might stage another attack on Inauguration Day, had turned capitol campuses into fortified encampments.

But the fury appeared to fizzle after Trump exited the White House and Biden took the oath of office and officially became the 46th president of the United States.

Read the full story.

White House freezes federal rulemaking until administration can review

Stacey Klein

Biden directed his chief of staff, Ron Klain, to send a memo to federal departments and agencies Wednesday telling them to stop issuing any new rules until the incoming administration can review them.

Barring emergency situations, any rules being proposed should be halted and those sent to the Office of the Federal Register withdrawn, Klain wrote. Regulations that have been issued but have not taken effect should be postponed for 60 days, he wrote.

Sexual assault survivors hope to have a voice in Biden administration

Sexual assault survivors are hopeful that they'll have a voice in Joe Biden's administration that they felt they lost under Donald Trump.

As one example, victims' rights advocates had criticized Betsy DeVos, Trump's education secretary, for policies that placed more emphasis on the concerns of students accused of sexual assault. 

“Obama’s administration was very friendly to survivors and our voices mattered, and we were on the agenda," said Brenda Tracy, an anti-rape activist. "Under the Trump administration, it’s like we were the enemy.”

Ana Avendaño, a former labor union lawyer who started a group advocating for workplace sexual harassment protection, wants to see Biden launch a White House task force on workplace harassment, or new rules barring companies or nonprofits that condone sexual misconduct from federal contracts and grants.

Biden has already announced a White House Gender Policy Council.

“I’m not naïve, we know it’s going to take a while,” Avendaño said. “But we as a nation have to tackle this issue together.”

It will also be important for Biden's administration to consider how race and immigration status affect survivors, said Kenyora Parham, executive director of the activist group End Rape On Campus. "We can't just address one thing — we have to address everything at the same time," Parham said.

Democrats take control of the Senate after Ossoff, Warnock and Padilla are sworn in

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla were sworn in Wednesday afternoon on the Senate floor by Vice President Kamala Harris, the president of the Senate.

Ossoff and Warnock won Senate runoff elections in Georgia earlier this month, defeating their Republican challengers. Padilla was appointed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill Harris' Senate seat, which she resigned from on Monday.

The Senate is now split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans but Democrats now take the majority because Harris will be able to cast tie-breaking votes as vice president.

Democratic leader Chuck Schumer now becomes the majority leader and GOP leader Mitch McConnell becomes the minority leader.

Photo: President Biden and first lady arrive at the White House

Image: Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States
President Joe Biden waves next to first lady Jill Biden at the North Portico on Wednesday.Tom Brenner / Reuters

World leaders congratulate Biden, some take shots at Trump

It was a sigh heard round the world. With almost palpable relief, longstanding American allies welcomed Joe Biden as he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday. Some signaled hopes for a radical change in the White House, particularly in its approach to climate change and the pandemic. And a few took parting shots at Donald Trump and his nationalist, "America first" agenda.

The European Union's top politician, Ursula von der Leyen, said that "after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House."

"This time-honored ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol will be a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy," she added in a speech in Brussels.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that Biden represented "victory of democracy over the ultra-right."

Then he took aim directly at the former president.

Read the story.

Harris already at work on legislative priorities

Vice President Kamala Harris is already working on the ambitious legislative priorities that Biden is launching Wednesday, notably the immigration legislation, her spokesperson Symone Sanders told NBC News.

With the Senate split 50-50, Harris will be spending a lot of time in the chamber working for immigration and other priorities, including the economic recovery package, health care, climate change and criminal justice reform. 

The vice president has been lobbying her former Senate colleagues for the confirmation of Biden's nominee for secretary of defense, retired four-star Gen. Lloyd Austin, who had his confirmation hearing Tuesday. Austin needs a separate vote to waive a requirement that uniformed military personnel be retired from active service for at least seven years before they take the top defense post, which is supposed to be a civilian job.

Harris is already in the Senate and will be handling the first order of business, swearing in the three new senators — Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, both Democrats from Georgia, and Alex Padilla, Harris' Democratic replacement from California.

Biden says before walking into White House, 'Feels like I am going home'

Biden stopped near the end of the inaugural parade to speak with — and fist bump — "Today" show weather anchor Al Roker and, separately, NBC News' Mike Memoli.

"It feels great!" Biden shouted back at Roker when asked how it felt to finally become president. The 46th commander in chief, who was about to walk into the White House, told Memoli when asked a similar question, "Feels like I am going home."

New CDC chief says agency conducting review on Covid-19 guidelines

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, who on Wednesday took over as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency will be evaluating all existing government guidance instituted under the Trump administration related to Covid-19. 

"Just as it has since the beginning of the pandemic, CDC will continue to focus on what is known — and what more can be learned — about the virus to guide America," Walensky said in an introductory statement.

"As part of that promise, CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat will begin leading a comprehensive review of all existing guidance related to COVID-19," she said. "Wherever needed, this guidance will be updated so that people can make decisions and take action based upon the best available evidence."

Walensky's position is an appointment and therefore does not require Senate confirmation. She previously served as chief of the division of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

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

Image: Memes show Bernie Sanders wearing mittens, Michelle Obama's inauguration outfit, and Joe Biden gazing at Lady Gaga.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as president and vice president Wednesday, the internet was at the ready to capitalize on every funny or strange moment in an otherwise serious and storied event.

With attendees abiding by Covid-19 guidelines and social distancing, the images of the inauguration differed from years' past, leading some to pounce on an opportunity to joke about politicians looking cold and alone at the event.

Others teased the appearances and performances of singers Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez.

While most of the memes were meant to be humorous, some used a format popularized in 2020 to create heartfelt memes, showing just how far some at the inauguration had come.

First came the debate memes. Then came the election memes.

Finally, here's our list of the best inauguration memes.

Pope Francis calls on God to help Biden's efforts at 'reconciliation and peace'

Claudio Lavanga

Pope Francis extended his "good wishes" to Joe Biden on his inauguration, and called on God to help the new president heal a polarized nation and world.

"Under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding," he said in a message issued by the Vatican's press office. 

Francis added: 

"At a time when the grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by a concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, together with unfailing respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice. I likewise ask God, the source of all wisdom and truth, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the universal common good."

Kamala Harris became the first Black, South Asian VP with 'firsts' surrounding her

Dartunorro Clark

Dartunorro Clark and Char Adams

Kamala Harris, the daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father — both immigrants — broke a nearly two-century barrier in American politics long dominated by white men on Wednesday when she was inaugurated as the nation's first female vice president, as well as the first Black American and first person of South Asian descent.

Her swearing-in was laced with the historic nature of the day.

The oath of office was administered by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the high court. Harris swore on two bibles, one belonging to Regina Shelton, a close family friend, and the other once owned by Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice. Harris often says that Marshall inspired her to become a lawyer.

Harris also wore an outfit designed by Christopher John Rogers and Sergio Hudson, both of whom are Black and from the South, a region pivotal to the Biden-Harris ticket's win. (Rogers is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Hudson is from South Carolina.) Her fashion choice tracks with the value that Harris said her mother instilled in her: “You may be the first to do many things. Make sure you’re not the last.”

Read the story.

All circumstance and less pomp, Joe Biden's Inauguration strikes a somber tone

President Joe Biden was elected on a promise to restore normality, but his presidency began Wednesday with a most unusual swearing in, with most of the pomp stripped away by the necessity of circumstance.

The day did not go as inaugurations of past have happened. The mall did not buzz with exuberant crowds; the streets did not teem with parade spectators; and the city's ballrooms were not adored with sequined gowns.

But it happened, nonetheless, which may be the only thing that matters at a moment when America’s democratic institutions have been tested, almost to the breaking point.

"Democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile,” the new president said after taking the oath on his family’s 127-year-old Bible. “And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

Read the story.

Controversial Trump appointee overseeing VOA resigns at Biden's request

The Trump appointee overseeing the Voice of America and other U.S.-funded broadcasters resigned on Wednesday at the request of the Biden administration, after a tumultuous tenure marked by accusations he was undermining the networks' editorial independence.

Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, said his resignation ws effective at 2 p.m. EST, just two hours after Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States, according to an email sent by Pack to staff.

Pack came under fire from both sides of the aisle in Congress, from press freedom groups and from current and former journalists at Voice of America and other outlets over a spate of decisions that critics said were designed to turn the broadcasters into mouthpieces for the Trump administration.

"I serve at the pleasure of not one particular president, but the office of the president itself. The new administration has requested my resignation, and that is why I have tendered it as of 2PM today," Pack wrote to the staff.

Read the story.

Parks and Recreation's Leslie Knope celebrates Biden presidency

Randi Richardson

Several years ago, former Pawnee, Indiana, City Councilwoman Leslie Knope received congratulations from then-Vice President Joe Biden during an episode of NBC's Parks and Recreation.

Today, the show confirmed she's happy for President Biden too.

Americans mark an unconventional inauguration as Biden ascends to presidency

Alison Vaughn's daughter and her friends in West Bloomfield, Michigan, watch the swearing in of Vice President Kamala Harris on Jan. 20, 2021.
Alison Vaughn's daughter and her friends in West Bloomfield, Michigan, watch the swearing in of Vice President Kamala Harris on Jan. 20, 2021.Courtesy Alison Vaughn

DETROIT — Six young Black girls sat around a television in suburban Detroit on Wednesday, watching the presidential inauguration. Yes, they’d gotten together to see Joe Biden become president. But there was no mistaking their main focus: Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman, first Black person and first South Asian American to hold the office.

The girls wore matching T-shirts with Harris’ face on the front and “I Could Be Next” on the back. When Harris raised her hand to be sworn in, some of the girls raised theirs as well, as though joining her.

“It was really cool to see a woman instead of a man be sworn in,” Sarah Vaughn, 9, said.

Watching and celebrating the inauguration took on unprecedented challenges on Wednesday, with Americans forced apart by a pandemic and fears of domestic terrorism. But they adapted, turning to Zoom and social media and scaling back in-person parties.

Read the story.

Who is running what without the Cabinet confirmed?

Until Biden’s Cabinet is confirmed, the administration has identified the following acting department and agency heads. Obtained from a senior Biden official:

"Today, President Joe Biden announced the acting agency leadership across the administration to assist in the next phase of the transition of government. These individuals, nearly all of whom are career civil servants, will temporarily lead federal agencies while Cabinet nominees continue moving through the confirmation process. 

Central Intelligence Agency, David Cohen

Department of Defense, David Norquist

Department of Energy, David Huizenga

Department of Health and Human Services, Norris Cochran

Department of Homeland Security, David Pekoske

Department of Justice, Monty Wilkinson

Department of Labor, Al Stewart

Department of State, Dan Smith

Department of Treasury, Andy Baukol

Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Lora Shiao

General Services Administration, Katy Kale

National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Steve Jurczyk

National Endowment for the Arts, Ann Eilers

National Endowment for the Humanities, Adam Wolfson

Office of Management and Budget, Rob Fairweather

Office of National Drug Control Policy, Regina LaBelle

Office of Personnel Management, Kathy McGettigan

Small Business Administration, Tami Perriello

Social Security Administration, Andrew Saul

U.S. Agency for International Development, Gloria Steele

U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Dev Jagadesan

U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Rich Mills

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Maria Pagan

Will the Senate confirm any of Biden's nominees on Wednesday?

Frank Thorp Vproducer and off-air reporter

The short answer is maybe. The Senate will come into session at 4:30 p.m. and immediately see to the swearing-in of Sens.-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossof, both Democrats from Georgia, and Sen-designate Alex Padilla, D-Calif., making the Democrats the majority party (50 senators and a Democratic vice president).

But nothing happens quickly in the Senate without the agreement of all 100 members. Without that consent, each of Biden's Cabinet nominees would require days of consideration, including the approval of the relevant committees. Also gumming up the works is the fact that without a power-sharing agreement between Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his soon-to-be successor in that role, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and an organizing resolution, Senate committees will still have the same make-up as before Democrats clinched the majority, with more Republican members than Democratic.

Schumer would only tell reporters “we’ll see” when asked whether members would be able to vote on any of Biden’s nominees Wednesday, and Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., just said he thinks they could vote on a least one. Sen Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is blocking the quick consideration of Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary, but it’s not clear if objections are holding back any of Biden’s other national security nominees.

FBI: Man who brought assault rifle to D.C. arrested in connect with Capitol riot

The FBI arrested a New York man in connection with the Capitol riot, on Wednesday. According to the criminal complaint, Samuel Fisher of New York City's Upper East Side, who often goes by the online alias "Brad Holiday," posted pictures of guns — including an assault rifle — on Facebook, noting he brought them with him to Washington D.C. before the Jan. 6. riot.

Fisher was charged with disorderly conduct and unlawfully entering restricted grounds. Law enforcement officials said he was taken into custody by the FBI Wednesday morning. 

Fisher posted a photograph of an assault rifle and a handgun on Jan. 6, according to the FBI, and told a friend that he was leaving his weapon and rifle in his car at the parking garage in D.C. in case he needed it.

He allegedly told someone on Facebook the day after the riot that he was there, describing it as "awesome," "dangerous" and "violent," adding that “seeing cops literally run . . . was the coolest thing ive ever seen in my life.”

The complaint notes that a person contacted the FBI, telling them about Fisher’s Facebook account and postings that appeared to depict him at the Capitol the day of the riot. According to the FBI, there was enough probable cause to arrest Fisher, based on message from his Facebook accounts saying he was at the riot and an IP address for posts that indicate he made them in or around Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6.

Photos of Biden's inaugural events already up at the White House

Geoff Bennett

The blue door leading from the White House briefing room to the press offices was locked for much of the inaugural proceedings while workers and IT staff cleaned offices and changed out equipment. 

Those doors are now unlocked, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki is in her office, where she could be heard conducting a meeting. 

Of note, two-foot tall plexiglass barriers now surround a desk that functions as a Secret Service checkpoint leading between the press offices. It appears to be a Covid-19 precaution. 

Large photos, known as “jumbos,” now hang on the walls. There are eight photos of the Bidens in gold frames, including a close-up of a teary-eyed Biden at his farewell ceremony in Wilmington on Tuesday; scenic shots of the flags on the National Mall; Biden posing in front of a Delaware National Guard placard; and a shot of Biden and Harris at Tuesday night’s Covid-19 memorial ceremony.

Biden, Harris and former presidents, first ladies participate in ceremony at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Image: U.S. President Joe Biden visits Arlington National Cemetery
President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala D. Harris and Major General Omar J. Jones salute at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.Joshua Roberts / Pool via Reuters

President Biden and Vice President Harris led a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday afternoon. 

The ceremony was attended by several former presidents and first ladies including the Obamas, the Bushes and Clintons, all of whom participated in Biden's inaugural ceremony earlier in the day. Former President Jimmy Carter was unable to join the visit and former President Trump left Washington early Wednesday morning for Palm Beach, Florida.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located at Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia and is dedicated to deceased military service members whose remains were never identified.

'The Hill We Climb': Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman steals the show

Amanda Gorman, 22, all but stole the show on Inauguration Day as she performed her original poem, "The Hill We Climb," becoming the youngest inaugural poet known in the nation's history.

Gorman spoke with force, poise and clarity outside the U.S. Capitol in front of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, among others.

"We've learned that quiet isn't always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn't always justice," she recited. "And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken but simply unfinished."

Biden’s inaugural team contacted Gorman late last month to perform a poem about unity in the United States, according to The Associated Press. She is now among inaugural poets including Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, Miller Williams, Richard Blanco and Elizabeth Alexander.

Read the story.

'It was about unity': Florida students watch inauguration

A bitterly divided political climate and worries about possible violence led some educators to decide not to show the inauguration in class — at least not live — but Kenneth Bass said he never considered depriving his students of such a crucial historical moment. 

Bass, the head of school at Xceed Preparatory Academy's Weston Campus in South Florida, said he's shown every inauguration to his students since George H.W. Bush was sworn in the year after he started teaching.

"The objective is for them to know what the heck is going on, why we're doing this," he said. 

He tapped teacher LD Anderson Jr. to lead 15 students in the middle and high school through a discussion of Joe Biden's inaugural address.

Students at Xceed Preparatory Academy discuss the inauguration in Weston, Fla., on Jan. 20, 2021.
Students at Xceed Preparatory Academy discuss the inauguration in Weston, Fla., on Jan. 20, 2021.Courtesy Kenneth Bass

"It was about unity," said David Rodriguez, 16, an 11th grader originally from Trinidad. "That was one of the main points of his speech, that America is one country."

Mia Phagan, 14, said she was touched when Biden talked about people dying from Covid-19 and noted that he spoke about bringing people together. 

"He said something about making allies that we may have disconnected from and to make friends from our enemies," she said.

Man charged with assault for allegedly pinning officer in Capitol doors

The FBI has arrested Patrick Edward McCaughey of Connecticut and charged him with assaulting a police officer who was trapped between doors at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which was captured on a now viral video. 

McCaughey was arrested at around 7p.m. Tuesday. The Justice Department criminal complaint says McCaughey repeatedly told the officer “just go home” and “come on man, you are going to get squished, just go home” while allegedly using a police shield against the cop. 

The officer, Daniel Hodges, later told reporters, “If it wasn’t my job, I would have done that for free. It was absolutely my pleasure to crush a white nationalist insurrection, and we’ll do it as many times as it takes.” 

The charging document says McCaughey pinned Hodges’ body between the riot shield and the lower West Terrace door as “a separate rioter begins violently ripping off Officer Hodges’ gas mask, exposing Officer Hodges’ bloodied mouth.”

McCaughey was allegedly seen leaving the Capitol on security cameras after he struck other officers with the shield, the document says. He is charged with assaulting a police officer, civil disorder and unlawful entry.

'We all just got played': Some QAnon followers lose hope

Some QAnon conspiracy theorists, in public and private internet forums and chat rooms, were despondent Wednesday as their prophecy of an Inauguration Day coup to keep Donald Trump in power failed again as President Joe Biden was sworn into office.

The situation left some QAnon adherents with no choice but to write off the conspiracy theory entirely, though others continued to maintain that it was still developing.

QAnon supporters believed Wednesday’s inauguration was an elaborate trap set by the former president, wherein Democrats would be rounded up and executed while Trump retained power. Various other doomsdays theorized by the QAnon community have also come and gone without incident.

But unlike those past days, Biden's inauguration leaves the community with little daylight. As their predictions failed, radicalized QAnon members expressed their betrayal on messaging apps like Telegram and forums named after their failed doomsday scenario, The Great Awakening.

While Biden took the oath, one top post on a QAnon forum read: “I don’t think this is supposed to happen” and wondered, “How long does it take the fed to run up the stairs and arrest him?"

Read the full story here.

Proud Boys member arrested for Capitol siege

A prominent member of the Proud Boys, Joe Biggs, was arrested Wednesday in Florida, according to federal prosecutors. He'll have a court appearance Thursday.

Court documents say Biggs, a right-wing media personality and Proud Boys member who has organized some of the group's events, is accused of encouraging others to enter and stay in the Capitol during the riot. The charges say he was one of the first to enter the building, through a door that was opened by a small group that got in by breaking a window with a police body shield.  

The documents say the man accused of breaking the window wore an earpiece and that "multiple individuals were photographed or depicted on videos with earpieces, including other individuals believed to be associated with the Proud Boys."

Read the full story here

As Biden is sworn in, reminders of Capitol riots linger

President Joe Biden took the oath of office on Wednesday, surrounded by reminders of this month's deadly riot by far-right mobs seeking to overturn his November victory. 

The ceremony went off smoothly, under the watchful eyes of 25,000 National Guard troops deployed in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot that led to five deaths

Scenes of high fencing, topped with barbed wire, were particularly clear before and after dignitaries came to watch Biden become America's 46th president.

Image: Heavily Guarded Nation's Capital Hosts Presidential Inauguration
Members of the National Guard salute as they stand near the Capitol while the National Anthem is sung during the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Jan. 20, 2021.Stephanie Keith / Getty Images

Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with gifts

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Congressional leaders provided gifts to President Biden and Vice President Harris in the Capitol Rotunda, including a painting, photos from their inaugural ceremony and flags that flew outside as they were sworn in. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., presented them with the flags. McConnell addressed Biden as "Mr. President" and and called him and Harris a "son and daughter of the Senate." He also noted that neither served in the House. 

McCarthy presented a framed photo from the ceremony and said he is "very proud of you both." McCarthy was among the House Republicans who voted to overturn Biden's victory when Congress counted the electoral votes on Jan. 6. He also noted that Harris made history Wednesday as the first woman to serve as vice president, which he said all of America should celebrate. 

Elation and speculation, after Trump's last minute protected status for Venezuelans

Former President Donald Trump’s move to extend protected status to Venezuelans hours before leaving office has generated praise and speculation over the timing of the move.

Venezuelan exiles have been among Trump’s most loyal supporters and are elated over the last-minute move. For years, Republican and Democratic members of Congress lobbied for protected status. Moving to the Deferred Enforced Departure program for Venezuelans stands in sharp contrast to Trump’s hardline immigration policies.

The executive order defers for 18 months the removal of Venezuelans who were at risk of being sent back to their home country. Trump cited the “deteriorative condition” in Venezuela that constitutes a national security threat as the reason for his decision.

Read the story.

Bernie Sanders memes go viral on Twitter

Randi Richardson

Sen. Bernie Sanders and his environmentally friendly mittens have become memes trending on social media. Here are some of our favorites:

The Trump years cost this Republican friends. Now he hopes for healing.

Steven Burts attends an inauguration watch party in Houston. Burts, a Republican who opposed Trump, hopes the Biden administration will bring healing to his shattered relationships with Trump-supporting friends and family.
Steven Burts attends an inauguration watch party in Houston. Burts, a Republican who opposed Trump, hopes the Biden administration will bring healing to his shattered relationships with Trump-supporting friends and family.Mike Hixenbaugh / NBC News

HOUSTON — Steven Burts showed up at an inauguration watch party in Houston wearing American flag overalls and a smile, ready to celebrate the end of the Trump presidency.

Burts, 42, identified himself as a Republican but said he would never support a man “who spews hate.” That’s a position that’s destroyed Burts’ relationship with some friends and family members who he said “blindly followed Trump’s lies.”

Burts, a salesman in the beer industry, disagrees with much of Biden’s policy proposals, but he’s hopeful that his administration could offer a chance for healing — both nationally and in his personal life.

“I’ll welcome them back when the Kool-Aid finally wears off,” Burts said of his Trump-supporting loved ones. “I don’t know if that will happen. Now it’s at least a fresh start without a person in the office actively trying to divide the nation.”

'Very happy old man': Greta Thunberg trolls Trump on his way out

Teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg trolled Donald Trump as the now-former president left Washington ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration. 

Thunberg, the founder of a global youth protest movement, was repeating a version of Trump's own words back at him. After her scathing and emotional 2019 speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, Trump sarcastically tweeted about Thunberg: "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!"

Not only has Trump attacked and mocked Thunberg personally, his administration also withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement and reduced environmental protections in the U.S. 

Amanda Gorman trades post-inauguration tweets with Lin-Manuel Miranda

"Hamilton" impresario Lin-Manuel Miranda clearly loved Amanda Gorman's electrifying poem:

In response, Gorman — the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history — expressed gratitude and recognized that she had paid homage to the Broadway smash:

In her poem, Gorman paraphrased two lines spoken by the George Washington character in "Hamilton": "Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree,” and "History has its eyes on us."

The first line is a verse from the Bible — Micah 4:4, to be exact — that appeared in the real-life Washington's writing.

Miranda will make an appearance during a primetime Inauguration Day special called "Celebrating America." Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks will serve as host.

Biden family huddles as Harris looks on

Mitt Romney praises 'very strong' inaugural speech

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, praised Biden's inaugural speech, saying it was "very much needed."

"I thought it was very strong and very much needed. We as a nation come together if we are told the truth and if we have leaders who stand for enduring American principles," he told reporters at the Capitol.

Romney said that whenever there has been disunity or fear or a sense of weakness, people like U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan "have come forward to bring people together."

"I hope this president is able to achieve that, and that we as people throughout our society will rise to the occasion as well," Romney said.

Harris' alma mater Howard University congratulates her

Randi Richardson

Howard University congratulated alumna Kamala Harris on becoming the vice president.

"It is with tremendous pride that I offer congratulations on behalf of the entire Howard University family to one of our own, Kamala Harris, in honor of her inauguration to become the 49th vice president in the history of the United States," Wayne A. I. Frederick, the university's president, said in a statement, adding, "That a Black woman can rise to hold the second most powerful office in the entire country, especially in the midst of continuing inequality, injustice and intolerance, is a decisive testament to our country’s values and its future trajectory."

The school also noted that Harris used Thurgood Marshall's bible for her swearing-in. Marshall attended law school at Howard before becoming an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court and racial justice champion.

"Throughout her career, she steadfastly adhered to Howard’s principles of truth and service," Frederick said. "Those guideposts have helped so many noteworthy and esteemed Howard alumni make a difference in our world, and they certainly served as critical footholds for Harris on her journey to the White House."

Photo: Celebrations at Black Lives Matter Plaza

Image: Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States
President Joe Biden's supporters celebrate at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington on Wednesday.Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

A Detroit mom's 'I could be next' party aims to inspire young Black girls

DETROIT — When Kamala Harris raised her hand to be sworn in as the nation's first Black, first woman and first South Asian American vice president, some of the girls wearing pearls in Alison Vaughn's suburban Detroit living room raised their hands as well, as though joining Harris in the oath.  

"It felt good to have something different instead of a white man," said Wendelaya Anthony, 9, one of six Black girls at the "I could be next party" Vaughn threw for her daughter, Sarah, and her friends. 

Alison Vaughn's daughter and her friends in West Bloomfield, Michigan, watch the swearing in of Vice President Kamala Harris on Jan. 20, 2021.
Alison Vaughn's daughter and her friends in West Bloomfield, Michigan, watch the swearing in of Vice President Kamala Harris on Jan. 20, 2021.Courtesy Alison Vaughn

The girls ate ice cream and french fries — favorite foods of Joe Biden and Harris — and wore T-shirts with Harris' face on the front and the words "I could be next" on the back. 

"When she got sworn in, I was kind of relieved that it wasn't the same thing anymore," said Joslyn Hunter, 11. "I do feel like maybe I could be the first one to do something because she was the first." 

Vaughn, the CEO of a Detroit workforce development organization called Jackets for Jobs, is a member of the same sorority as Harris and included a picture of a young, pigtailed Harris on her party invitation.

"At one point, being president or vice president for a Black person was just totally unheard of. Now my daughter can see that 'I can do this. I can be next,'" she said.

On Fox News, Chris Wallace and Karl Rove offer praise for Biden's speech

Biden's speech went over well with some of Fox News' biggest names.

Chris Wallace, anchor of "Fox News Sunday," called it "the best inaugural speech I ever heard," recalling John F. Kennedy's "ask not what your country can do for you" speech.

Karl Rove, a political contributor to Fox News, said: "For the moment, this was a great speech."

The speech wasn't as well received on far-right cable channels One America News Network and Newsmax, both of which have remained fiercely loyal to Trump. One Newsmax anchor called the speech "dark" and "divisive."

Americans celebrate inauguration at home with patriotic-themed food and games

Kristen Azari is celebrating the inauguration for the first time with her husband and two teenage daughters in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Azari, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, shared pictures of her decorations and themed games on Twitter.

“I feel like today is a day that needs to be celebrated, and I’m ready for America to feel normal again,” Azari told NBC News. “My girls are at school virtually and they have been popping out between breaks to watch the swearing-in, and I had to explain why I was crying to my youngest… I’m so emotional finally seeing a woman as our vice president.”

Meanwhile, in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Adriane Emig shared a photo on Instagram of her two children — Laurel, 2, and August, 6 — sitting in front of U.S. flags and cut-out pictures of Biden and Harris.

Julián Castro finally gets the chance to say, 'Adiós, Trump'

Back in the primaries, presidential candidate Julián Castro told America that on Jan. 20, 2021, at 12:01 p.m., the country would have a Democratic president, House and Senate. Today, he gets the chance to say he was right.

His words from the June 2019 primary debate were replaying on social media as Biden took the oath of office, making Castro look like something of a visionary.  

Castro also envisioned a sendoff in which Biden would usher out former President Trump, and as Marine One took off Americans would say, "Adiós, Trump." It didn't quite happen that way. Trump left the White House without welcoming Biden and first lady Jill Biden and did not attend the inauguration.

But Castro and others who had purchased his campaign shirts with the farewell in Spanish donned their shirts and posted selfies of themselves on Twitter. 

Bipartisan lawmakers congratulate Biden and Harris

Randi Richardson

Lawmakers congratulated President Biden and Vice President Harris after they were sworn in.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tweeted, "Congratulations to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Now we must get to work to solve the challenges facing our country. We are all Americans, and together we will succeed, as we have for more than 230 years."

McCarthy was among the most prominent Republicans to contest the congressional tally of Biden's win.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., tweeted, "America has a president again. Let's get to work!"

Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat representing Biden's home state of Delaware, tweeted, "It’s a new day in America. With President @JoeBiden and Vice President @KamalaHarris at the helm, help, and hope is on the way for American families.

Trump, arriving in Palm Beach, waves to supporters

Former President Donald Trump was seen waving at supporters gathered along Southern Boulevard as his motorcade arrived at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

Biden, in first tweet as president, says he's going to Oval Office 'to get right to work'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Clinton offers congratulations and prayers: Inauguration 'affirmed our democracy'

Garth Brooks sings 'Amazing Grace'

Country music star Garth Brooks performed "Amazing Grace" at the inaugural ceremony, where Joe Biden was sworn-in as the 46th president of the United States and Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first woman, as well as first Black and South Asian American vice president.

Brooks asked the audience to join him for the last verse, asking it of "not just the people here, but the people at home, at work, as one, united."

Earlier this week, Brooks said during a press conference, “This is a great day in our household.”

“This is not a political statement, this is a statement of unity." he said. "This is history, and it is an honor to get to serve."

Brooks performed along with Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez during the inaugural ceremony. 

'It opens the door': Jackson State University students celebrate inauguration

JACKSON, Miss. — Jackson State University junior Tiranda Plummer watched President Joe Biden's inauguration in between virtual classes.

Plummer, a biology pre-med major at the historically Black university, is a member of the university's marching band, which performed on Tuesday at the virtual "We Are One" inaugural event. 

"This is a moment I'll never forget," Plummer said. "A moment I can tell my kids, my grandchildren about." 

Justin Standifer, a fellow junior, said it was "surreal" to see Vice President Kamala Harris, an alumna of Howard University, another historically black school, take office. 

“It opens the door for more graduates of historically Black colleges to serve,” he said. “Let’s start a trend. Maybe the next one can be the president."

Los Angeles Public Library touts inaugural poet

Trump administration's 1776 Report page is down

The Biden administration is not wasting time. 

Minutes after Biden was sworn in, the web page for the 1776 Report — a paper from conservative political operatives and academics and released by the Trump administration that sought to paint a rosier picture of America's history around slavery and racism — has been taken down.

At Texas restaurant, hopes for recovery and unity

HOUSTON — A small group of people gathered to watch the inauguration at Star Sailor HTX, a craft-beer bar and restaurant that was forged out of the challenges confronting the new administration.

Like millions of other Americans, Marin Slanina lost her job managing a taproom last spring as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses. Then she made the bold decision to open her own restaurant in the midst of pandemic.

It’s been a challenge, she said, but she’s hopeful that the new administration will be able to get the pandemic under control in 2021 and clear a path for businesses like hers to thrive.

As Biden spoke about the need to move past the “uncivil war” dividing America, Slanina said she hoped Star Sailor would become a space where that becomes a reality.

“Once you walk through that door, we want to make sure that this is a safe space,” Slanina said. “It’s a small space, so people have to check their bull---- at the door and find a way to get along. That’s the only way we’re going to get through this.”

Biden stresses his goal to unite America and end this 'uncivil war'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

In his first remarks as president, Joe Biden stressed that the nation must come together, and he will aim to achieve that as the 46th commander in chief. 

"Democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile, and at this hour my friends, democracy has prevailed," Biden said on the West Front of the Capitol just after he was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Biden said the U.S. has rarely faced more challenges in its history than exist right now, with a pandemic that has left more than 400,000 people dead across the country and millions of jobs lost and thousands of businesses closed. 

"The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer," Biden said. "To overcome these challenges to restore the soul and secure the future America requires so much more than words, it requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy — unity, unity."

Biden said his "whole soul is in it" to unite America, later saying that the forces that divide people are "deep and they are real." 

"We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature," he said. 

Biden pledged to be a president for all Americans and to end the current "uncivil war" that "pits red against blue." 

"To all those who did not support us, let me say this, hear me out ... As we move forward, take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That's democracy. That's America. The right to dissent peaceably in the guardrails of our republic is perhaps this nation's greatest strength."

Meet Amanda Gorman, 22, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history

Amanda Gorman, 22, on Wednesday became the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration. Her name will now be known forever among inaugural poets including Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, Miller Williams, Richard Blanco, and Elizabeth Alexander.

President Biden’s inaugural team contacted Gorman late last month to perform a poem about unity in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. She performed “The Hill We Climb,” a poem she said she struggled to write until the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 gave her just the push she needed.

“We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace … We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy,” the poem reads.  

Ahead of the performance, Gorman told the New York Times that she wants the poem to inspire hope, without ignoring the country’s history of racism and violence.

“In my poem, I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years,” Gorman said. “But what I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal. It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”

Gorman has had much success as a poet. She became the nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate at 19 while a sophomore at Harvard University.

White House tweets unity message minutes after Biden assumes presidency

Booker: 'I can feel our ancestors rejoicing today'

It's Twitter official

Twitter has completed its transfer of power.

The @POTUS handle has changed over to President Joe Biden, along with the other official government Twitter accounts

JLo delivers a bilingual performance of "This Land Is Your Land"

The actress and pop superstar Jennifer Lopez delivered a rendition of "This Land Is Your Land" and “America The Beautiful” shortly after Harris was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court justice.

Lopez, one of the nation's most influential Latina artists, made a reference to her smash hit "Let's Get Loud" during her performance and shared a message in Spanish about "libertad y justicia para todos" — liberty and justice for all. 

In key Michigan county, Democrats toast Biden's arrival

DETROIT — In the minutes leading up to Joe Biden's swearing in, Democrats from Michigan's Oakland County toasted the moment together. 

"This is a day of celebration, a day when we pat ourselves on the back," County Executive Dave Coulter told several dozen Democrats gathered on Zoom, adding that everyone on the call had "done something over the course of the last four years to help get us where we are." 

Oakland County, just north of Detroit, played a key role in helping Biden reclaim Michigan for the Democrats in November. County voters narrowly backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 but came out in much higher numbers for Biden, giving him 100,000 more votes than Clinton.

"Today we turn a new page," Coulter said, inviting the group to stay after the inaugural address to dance along with a local band that was scheduled to play. 

As Biden took the oath of office, members of the group applauded, smiling. 

View from the Mall: National Guard members salute as Lady Gaga sings national anthem

Covid-19 death toll tops 403,596 as Joe Biden takes office

President Joe Biden took the oath of office Wednesday, leading a nation where more than 403,596 people have died from Covid-19.

When Biden said "so help me God" at 11:48 a.m., at least 24.39 million had been sickened by the deadly virus since the pandemic reached the U.S. shores a year ago, according to a rolling count by NBC News.

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly downplayed the virus, even though he knew of its deadly potential in February

Biden last week announced his proposals for a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package

Image: Healthcare workers treat COVID-19 patients in Houston
Nurse Tanna Ingraham pauses while placing the body of a patient into a body bag in the Covid-19 unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston on Dec. 30, 2020.Callaghan O'Hare / Reuters file


Biden sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Biden was just sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts at 11:48 a.m. ET. He will officially become president at noon ET.

Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president, first women ever to hold the office

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president of the United States at 11:42 a.m. ET by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Harris is the first woman ever to serve as vice president. 

Lady Gaga performs the national anthem

Oscar- and Grammy-winning singer Lady Gaga performed the national anthem just after 11:30 a.m., adorned with a large gold brooch of a bird.

Image: Joe Biden Sworn In As 46th President Of The United States At U.S. Capitol Inauguration Ceremony
Lady Gaga arrives to sing the National Anthem on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington.Win McNamee / Getty Images

Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, used a gold-colored microphone and earpiece during the performance. 

The "A Star Is Born" actress performed the anthem at the 2016 Super Bowl while wearing a red suit. 

Gaga campaigned for Biden and worked with him on issues around sexual assault and violence. 

Minutes before inauguration, Trump adds one last pardon

Alana Satlin

With less than an hour to go before Biden is sworn in, President Trump granted a full pardon to Albert J. Pirro Jr.

Pirro, the ex-husband of Fox News host and Trump ally Jeanine Pirro, was convicted on conspiracy and tax evasion charges in 2000.

Americans mark an unconventional inauguration

Forced by a pandemic and fears of domestic terrorism to remain apart, Americans found new ways to celebrate the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, turning to Zoom and social media and scaling back in-person parties.

Worries about possible violence led some educators to decide not to show the inauguration in class Wednesday — at least not live. But Kenneth Bass, the head of school at Xceed Preparatory Academy's Weston Campus in South Florida, said it was important for students to see the speeches. 

"Emotions are very high," Bass said. "We've never had a more polarized country in my lifetime."

Read the full story here. 

Photo: Barack Obama and Kamala Harris bump fists

Image: Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris greets former President Barack Obama ahead of the inauguration at the Capitol on Wednesday.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

People across U.S. made over 2,000 pieces of Indian art to welcome Harris

Mythili Sampathkumar

Shanthi Chandrasekar, a Maryland-based multimedia artist, took the more than 2,000 pieces of decorated cardboard sent to her by people across the country to create a welcome mat of sorts for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in honor of her south Asian heritage.

Using the citizen artwork, Chandrasekar created a composite kolam, a traditional South Indian art form featuring geometric designs often found on doorsteps to welcome guests. She started the project, known as Inauguration Kolam 2021, in December by soliciting contributions on social media, in schools and by word of mouth within the Indian America community.

The artwork was supposed to be displayed at the U.S. Capitol for four days leading up to the inauguration, but the display has been postponed because of security issues. The project has been featured in a virtual welcome video by the Presidential Inauguration Committee, with hopes that the volunteers will be able to physically assemble the design later. 

Read the whole story here.

With ceremony underway, quiet on the National Mall

The National Mall, typically filled with throngs of supporters during an inauguration, was almost entirely silent as Biden's inaugural ceremony got underway except for the sound of generators, golf carts and the occasional gust of wind.

The thousands of miniature flags were waving in the quiet, and only other members of the media and law enforcement were present. There was no sign of any protesters or demonstrations here, and the security perimeter stretches far beyond the Capitol steps and the Mall.

Skies are gray, and just after 11 a.m. some snow began to fall.

Snow begins to fall on inaugural attendees

As Biden walked out the Capitol steps, light snow began to fall on the West Front of the Capitol. 

Blankets were left out on the seats for the family members and many started to bundle up. 

Keke Palmer joins Jill Biden in first inaugural livestream for kids

The actress Keke Palmer served as host for the first presidential inauguration livestream designed to get families and children involved in the historic event. 

“Today is a celebration of democracy and a reminder that, in America, we the people get to pick our leaders together. But when the ceremony ends, that’s really just the beginning,” Palmer said during the event. “We’ve got lots of work to do as a country. We’ve got to take on a pandemic, climate change, and racial inequality. We’ve got to build a country where good jobs and opportunities are available to everyone. Those are big challenges and today is a reminder that we can overcome those challenges if we work together.”

The event, titled “Our White House: An Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans” launched at 10 a.m. ET, with a message from Jill Biden, who is a teacher.  

Palmer has spent recent years cementing herself as a social media favorite, with viral moments and comedic content. Over the summer, the entertainer made headlines when she urged National Guard members to march with protesters during demonstrations across the country regarding police violence. 

Biden to use family Bible that dates back to 1893

President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in using a Bible that has been in his family since 1893 and was used during his swearing-in as vice president in 2009 and 2013.

It was also used each time he was sworn-in as a U.S. senator. It is five inches thick with a Celtic cross on the cover.

The president-elect’s late son Beau also used the Bible for his own swearing-in ceremony as attorney general of Delaware and helped carry the Bible to his father's 2013 ceremony.

Bernie Sanders attends inauguration in environmentally friendly gloves

Randi Richardson

Bernie Sanders has drawn attention from social media for wearing environmentally friendly mittens to the inauguration.

Jen Ellis, a teacher from Vermont, told local media she made the mittens from repurposed wool sweaters.

Ellis gave Sanders the mittens a few years ago. He wore them on the presidential campaign trail. 

Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders sits in the bleachers at the Capitol before the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.
Sen. Bernie Sanders sits in the bleachers at the Capitol before the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

6 Supreme Court justices are in attendance

Six of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices are at the inaugural ceremony. Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito — the three oldest justices — elected not to attend because of the pandemic.

Hero officer Eugene Goodman escorts Harris to inauguration


Geoff Bennett

Kasie Hunt

Randi Richardson

Geoff Bennett, Kasie Hunt and Randi Richardson

Eugene Goodman, the Capitol police officer who intervened to prevent a mob from entering the Senate chamber during the riots earlier this month, escorted Vice President-elect Kamala Harris for her inauguration.

He drew widespread praise over a video that showed him purposefully baiting a mob in the opposite direction of the Senate chamber doors, beyond which lawmakers were still hiding. Five people were killed in the riots, including another police officer.

Goodman is an Army veteran who served in Iraq before joining the Capitol police. He was introduced at the inaugural ceremony as the new acting deputy House sergeant at arms, a significant promotion.

A group of bipartisan lawmakers introduced a bill to award Goodman with the highest civilian award it can bestow, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Pence left a note for Harris

Vice President Mike Pence, who is attending the inaugural ceremony, left a note for Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, a White House official said. As for the note Trump left for Biden before departing to Florida, that was placed in the Oval Office by an aide, a separate White House official said.

Supreme Court receives bomb threat, building and grounds checked

The Supreme Court received a bomb threat Wednesday, according to a public information officer for the Court. 

The building and grounds were checked out, and the building was not evacuated, the spokesperson told NBC News shortly before 11 a.m., about an hour before Biden is set to be sworn in as president. 

GOP objectors attend Biden inauguration

Dartunorro Clark

Amid the backdrop of a heavy military presence prompted by the attack on the Capitol two weeks ago, several GOP lawmakers who voted to object to the certification of Biden's win were seen in attendance at the inauguration. 

They include GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Roger Marshall of Kansas. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., were also seen in attendance. 

'After four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House': EU Commission president

Andy Eckardt

Andy Eckardt and F. Brinley Bruton

The European Union's top politician has welcomed President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, saying that "after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House."

"This time-honored ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol will be a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy. And resounding proof that, once again, after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House," the President of the E.U. Commission on Biden Ursula von der Leyen said in a speech in Brussels

While international congratulations and well-wishes are common during inaugurations, Von der Leyen's comments reflected the alarm that many in Europe felt during the presidency of Donald Trump, who broke with longstanding norms, and criticized and rebuffed longstanding allies. This alarm turned into horror as the insurrectionist mob encouraged by Trump overtook the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

Von der Leyen was joined by other European leaders in welcoming Biden before he had officially become president, and signaling the hopes for a radical change in the White House. 

Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio welcomed a "new beginning," while Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez referred to the political forces that had propelled Trump during his welcome to Biden. 

"Biden's victory represents the victory of democracy over the far-right," he said.  "Some years ago some may have thought Trump was a bad joke, but now, five years later, we have realized he has put at risk nothing less and nothing more than the most powerful democracy in the world."

Kamala Harris wears Black designers on Inauguration Day