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

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

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

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

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

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

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Read the highlights:

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

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

— Some QAnon followers lose hope after inauguration.

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

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

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

Hero officer Eugene Goodman escorts Harris to inauguration

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

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

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

Harris is paying tribute to her history-making moment this week by donning clothing from Black designers. 

On the eve of the historic inauguration, Harris sported a camel coat from Pyer Moss, a label by Black designer Kerby Jean-Raymond. Jean-Raymond is known for combatting African American erasure in fashion, providing PPE for hospital workers, and providing grants for small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

On Wednesday, Harris will wear clothing from Sergio Hudson and Christopher John Rogers along with her signature pearls during the day's activities. Rogers is a New York-based designer from Baton Rouge and Hudson is from South Carolina. Hudson also famously dressed Michelle Obama.

Harris’ style choices will likely please fashion observers who have said that they hope she will make a statement through her clothing. 

“I think that it’s an attempt to unify America, not unlike the way Michelle Obama did where she worked to champion American designers and brands,” Kimberly Jenkins, fashion and race historian, told NBC's Today Show. “I think she’ll want to celebrate the abundance of diverse talent that needs support. The United States is a tapestry of cultures and heritage, and I think she will want to celebrate that.”

Rep. Deb Haaland, first Native American to lead the Dept. of the Interior, is ready to work

Kamala Harris' sorority celebrates her becoming VP

The Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority is celebrating Kamala Harris becoming the vice president by declaring inauguration day Kamala Harris Day.

The AKAs are the oldest Black sorority in the country founded in 1908. Harris crossed at the Alpha chapter at Howard University in the spring of 1986. The Alpha chapter is the first of over 1,000 chapters across the country.

Harris' sorority sisters are using #KamalaHarrisDay on social media to post what Harris means to them while wearing sorority gear in their signature pink and green colors.

During Harris' campaign as VP and president, her sorority sisters sent in $19.08 donations to show their support.

Rep. Dan Kildee gives this inauguration a thumbs up

How ancestral village of Kamala Harris is celebrating inauguration

THULASENDRAPURAM, India - Residents of the ancestral Indian village of Kamala Harris celebrated her inauguration as U.S. vice president on Wednesday by setting off firecrackers and distributing food.

Thulasendrapuram, a leafy village about 320 km (200 miles) south of the city of Chennai, is where Harris’s maternal grandfather was born more than a century ago.

Calendars featuring the faces of Biden and Harris have been distributed throughout the village by a co-operative.

“A local politician conducted a special prayer and villagers have been distributing sweets and letting off crackers since the morning,” said village shopkeeper G Manikandan.

Read the whole story here.