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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.

863d ago / 5:23 PM UTC

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.

863d ago / 5:19 PM UTC

White House tweets unity message minutes after Biden assumes presidency

863d ago / 5:08 PM UTC

Booker: 'I can feel our ancestors rejoicing today'

863d ago / 5:01 PM UTC

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

863d ago / 5:00 PM UTC

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

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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. 

863d ago / 4:54 PM UTC

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. 

863d ago / 4:51 PM UTC

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

863d ago / 4:51 PM UTC

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


863d ago / 4:50 PM UTC

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

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.

863d ago / 4:45 PM UTC

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

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. 

863d ago / 4:45 PM UTC

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. 

863d ago / 4:35 PM UTC

Minutes before inauguration, Trump adds one last pardon

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.

863d ago / 4:34 PM UTC

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. 

863d ago / 4:32 PM UTC

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
864d ago / 4:24 PM UTC

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

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.

864d ago / 4:24 PM UTC

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.

864d ago / 4:21 PM UTC

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. 

864d ago / 4:17 PM UTC

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. 

864d ago / 4:14 PM UTC

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.

864d ago / 4:12 PM UTC
864d ago / 4:12 PM UTC

Bernie Sanders attends inauguration in environmentally friendly gloves

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
864d ago / 4:10 PM UTC
864d ago / 4:05 PM UTC

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.

864d ago / 4:04 PM UTC

Hero officer Eugene Goodman escorts Harris to inauguration

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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.

864d ago / 4:03 PM UTC

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.

864d ago / 3:59 PM UTC

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. 

864d ago / 3:58 PM UTC

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. 

864d ago / 3:57 PM UTC

'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."

864d ago / 3:57 PM UTC

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.”

864d ago / 3:56 PM UTC
864d ago / 3:48 PM UTC

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

864d ago / 3:46 PM UTC

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.

864d ago / 3:43 PM UTC

Rep. Dan Kildee gives this inauguration a thumbs up

864d ago / 3:37 PM UTC

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.

864d ago / 3:36 PM UTC

Photo: Lady Gaga arrives at the Capitol

Lady Gaga, who will sing the national anthem on Wednesday.Win McNamee / AFP - Getty Images
864d ago / 3:35 PM UTC

Photo: This will be Biden's view from the Capitol

A view from the West Front of the Capitol of inaugural preparations. A lot of the empty green space would normally be filled with lawmakers and other VIPs.Susan Walsh / Pool via AFP - Getty Images
864d ago / 3:30 PM UTC

Biden, Kamala Harris arrive at Capitol for inaugural ceremony

Image: Joe Biden Sworn In As 46th President Of The United States At U.S. Capitol Inauguration Ceremony
Doug Emhoff, Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the Capitol on Wednesday.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Biden's lengthy motorcade has arrived at the U.S. Capitol for the inaugural ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol. 

Biden, incoming first lady Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff arrived at the East Front of the Capitol around 10:30 a.m. ET ahead of the event set to begin around 11 a.m. ET. 

Around noon, Biden is expected to be sworn as president. 

864d ago / 3:25 PM UTC

S&P hits another record high ahead of Biden inauguration

Wall Street soared Wednesday, ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, with the S&P 500 index hitting an intraday record high.

The rally comes amid a slew of strong corporate earnings, with companies such as consumer giant Procter & Gamble upgrading their outlook for 2021, forecasting a more positive year for the economy.

"Despite some inevitable bumps in the road, traders and corporate America alike are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Chris Larkin, managing director of trading and investing product at E-Trade Financial, told CNBC.

In a virtual Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Biden's pick for treasury secretary, touted the incoming administration's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, a comprehensive plan that includes another round of stimulus checks, a $15 federal minimum wage and aid for state and local governments.

"The damage has been sweeping, and as the president-elect said last Thursday, our response must be too," Yellen said. "In the long run, the benefits will far outweigh the costs."

864d ago / 3:23 PM UTC

Rubio says he's skipping Biden's inauguration to work on key Biden nominee's confirmation

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Wednesday that he is skipping the inauguration to address any potential hold-ups to the confirmation of Avril Haines, Biden's nomination as director of national intelligence.

It's unclear who might be objecting to the expedited consideration of Haines, whose confirmation hearing took place Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Senate requires that all 100 senators must agree to bringing a nominee straight to the floor, circumventing a committee vote. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is set to become majority leader Wednesday afternoon, said Tuesday that the Senate should immediately confirm Haines and other nominees because of the current national security situation in the U.S. 

864d ago / 3:21 PM UTC

Rubbing — and bumping — elbows at the inauguration

864d ago / 3:20 PM UTC

Biden, family and close friends attend pre-inaugural Mass

Image: President-elect Joe Biden attends a church service before his presidential inauguration, at St. Matthews Catholic Church in Washington
President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden attend a church service at St. Matthews Catholic Church in Washington on Wednesday.Tom Brenner / Reuters

In addition to the congressional leaders joining Biden at a pre-inaugural Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, the audience was mostly family and close friends, who were all seated socially distanced in every other row, with the middle of every aisle open, a source in attendance said.

It was a full Catholic Mass, including the Eucharist, presided over by the Rev. Kevin O’Brien, a Jesuit priest who is now president of Santa Clara University and became friends with the Bidens during his time at Georgetown. Biden will become the nation's second Roman Catholic president.

Image: President-elect Joe Biden attends a church service before his presidential inauguration, at St. Matthews Catholic Church in Washington
The audience was mostly family and close friends.Tom Brenner / Reuters

O'Brien delivered what this source described as a personal homily marking the historic day. Jill Biden’s sister, Bonny Jacobs, and Sara Biden, the president-elect’s sister-in law, both did readings, and Valerie Biden Owens, his sister, did the universal prayer.

864d ago / 3:12 PM UTC

Former presidents arrive

The three former presidents attending the inauguration have all arrived with their spouses: Bill and Hillary Clinton, George and Laura Bush, Barack and Michelle Obama.

Trump is not attending, nor is former President Jimmy Carter. Carter, who at 96 is the oldest living former president, will attend virtually. 

864d ago / 2:57 PM UTC
864d ago / 2:57 PM UTC

Obamas congratulate former VP Biden on becoming president

864d ago / 2:54 PM UTC

'Something we can hang our hats on': Mississippi farmer hopes Biden brings opportunities

JACKSON, Miss. — Calvin Head, who leads a historically Black-owned farming cooperative in the Mississippi Delta, hopes to hear a pledge to “create opportunities” for impoverished, rural communities during Joe Biden's inaugural address. 

Head said members of his co-op in Mileston, Mississippi, were struggling to recover from 2019 flooding when the pandemic hit. In his view, relief efforts have fallen short: Tedious paperwork deters farmers from applying for aid, and changes to the Department of Agriculture's Farmers to Families Food Box program have resulted in larger out-of-state farms receiving contracts, rather than local growers, he said. 

“When the bailout comes, big farmers reap the benefits,” he said. “Small farmers get the crumbs off the table.”

Head wants to see government investments in the Delta that create jobs for unemployed residents and support small farmers. 

“We want to hear something we can hang our hats on or be hopeful about,” he said. 

864d ago / 2:50 PM UTC

Golden State Warriors tweet video congratulating Oakland native Harris

864d ago / 2:35 PM UTC

Hillary Clinton celebrates Kamala Harris becoming first woman VP

864d ago / 2:33 PM UTC

Trump departs Washington in final hours as president, travels to Florida

Image: U.S. President Trump at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
President Donald Trump speaks at Joint Base Andrews before departing Wednesday.Carlos Barria / Reuters

President Donald Trump touted his time in office on Wednesday morning, speaking to supporters at Joint Base Andrews at a send-off as he left Washington on his final day in office.

"It is my greatest honor and privilege to have been your president," he said to cheers. "I wish the new administration great luck and great success, and I think they'll have great success. They have the foundation to do something really spectacular."

The tone was a shift from previous weeks, in which Trump continued to insist without evidence that he did not lose the election, an insistence that culminated in a mob of his supporters attacking the Capitol in an effort to stop President-elect Joe Biden's election from becoming official.

Breaking with decades of tradition, Trump will not participate in the peaceful transition of power and is skipping the inauguration. He opted for a rally-like setup at the military airfield, complete with large speakers blasting his campaign playlist, American flags, and several hundred gathered supporters. 

Read the story.

864d ago / 2:30 PM UTC

Full list of Trump's last-minute pardons and commuted sentences

With only hours to go before leaving office, President Trump pardoned 73 people and commuted the sentences of 70 others.

The list, made public early Wednesday morning, included his former chief strategist and longtime ally Steve Bannon as well as his former top fundraiser Elliott Broidy.

See the full list here.

864d ago / 2:27 PM UTC

Surgeon General Adams says Biden team has asked him to resign

Jerome Adams said Wednesday that he has been asked by the Biden team to step down as surgeon general.

"[It's] been the honor of my life to serve this Nation, and I will do all I can to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve and maintain health," Adams tweeted.

Adams said in a full statement posted on Facebook that he tried to communicate the evolving science behind Covid-19 to the public and provide people with tools to stay safe.

"I wasn’t always right — because no one was, and this virus continues to humble all of us — but I was always sincere in my efforts to speak to everyday Americans, and address the terrible health inequities this virus exposed," Adams said. "I hope in 2021 and beyond, we can focus more on what unites us, and rise above what divides us. Because Americans working together can overcome any obstacle or adversary."

Biden has nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general, a role that he held under President Obama. He must be confirmed by the Senate before serving in the position again.

864d ago / 2:21 PM UTC
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864d ago / 2:12 PM UTC

Biden, Harris inauguration underway amid Covid pandemic and D.C. lockdown

Image: The "Field of flags" in Washington
The "Field of flags" is seen on the National Mall ahead of inauguration ceremonies.Allison Shelley / Reuters

President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn-in as the 46th president of the United States Wednesday at noon, amid a devastating global pandemic and the threat of possible domestic terrorism.

In a ceremony that will keep with tradition while being unlike any other inauguration in U.S. history, Biden will take his oath of office before a small, socially distanced audience in a city that has been locked down because of the dual threats of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 400,000 people in the U.S., and worries over another attack just weeks after the deadly violence at the U.S. Capitol.

Those slated to attend the scaled-down ceremony include most members of Congress and the Supreme Court and former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and their spouses, as well as Vice President Mike Pence.

President Donald Trump won't be in attendance, making him the first president to skip his successor's inauguration in more than 150 years. As he left the White House on Wednesday morning, he told reporters that serving as president was "the honor of a lifetime" and claimed that "we've accomplished a lot."

Read the story.

864d ago / 2:06 PM UTC

FIRST READ: How Joe Biden met the 2020 moment

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Over the last two years, it was easy to see how today’s moment — Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. being sworn in as the nation’s 46th president — wasn’t going to happen.

Biden, the thinking went, was too old. He wasn’t inspirational or exciting enough as a former vice president. He was prone to gaffes. He wasn’t great on the stump. And he often stumbled in debates.

But what Biden achieved was meeting — and understanding — the moment that presented itself during a presidential campaign unlike any other.

Get more First Read.

864d ago / 1:56 PM UTC

Trump in final remarks as president: 'We will be back in some form'

After landing at Joint Base Andrews around 8:30 a.m. ET on Marine One, Trump delivered his final remarks as president and wished the next administration luck without specifically mentioning Biden's name.

"I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better," Trump said. "I wish the new administration great luck and great success. I think they'll have great success. They have the foundation to do something really spectacular. And again, we put it in a position like it's never been before despite the worst plague to hit since I guess you'd say 1917, over 100 years ago." 

"Just a goodbye. We love you. We will be back in some form," he said as the Village People's "YMCA" began to play in the background. "Have a good life. We will see you soon." 

Trump listed what he considered his administration's accomplishments, such as creating the Space Force, improving services for military veterans, cutting regulations and passing tax cuts.

"I hope they don't raise your taxes," Trump said, delivering the remarks without a teleprompter. "You're going to see some incredible things happening. And remember us when you see these things happening." 

"We've accomplished so much together," he said. "I want to thank all of my family and my friends and my staff and so many other people for being here. I want to thank you for your effort, your hard work. People have no idea how hard this family worked, and they worked for, you could have had a much easier life, but they just did a fantastic job." 

in brief comments, Melania Trump said being first lady was her "greatest honor." 

As they spoke, Air Force One was behind the stage, with a red carpet leading to its steps, and four cannons were in position for a 21-gun salute.

Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere confirmed to NBC News that Trump has left Biden a note, but Deere did not provide details on its contents.

864d ago / 1:30 PM UTC

'It's going to be hard': Do Latino voters think Joe Biden can unite the country?

Joe Biden has said that as the 46th president, he will work to unify an increasingly polarized country. But 7 in 10 Americans believe the U.S. will remain politically divided during the next four years, according to NBC News' latest national poll.

Latinos who voted for and against Biden are trying to remain cautiously hopeful as he is sworn in Wednesday.

Reynaldo Decérega, 48, an independent from Virginia who voted for Biden, said it would be difficult for any president, Democratic or Republican, to be a unifier in the current political environment.

He remains optimistic about the future, however, as a new administration steps in. "Legislators might be willing to be bolder with their actions" after recent events and "all the realities that have been exposed," said Decérega, who is Panamanian.

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864d ago / 1:28 PM UTC
864d ago / 1:17 PM UTC

Trump, first lady leave White House for final time on Marine One

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump boarded Marine One from the South Lawn of the White House for the final time. 

Before leaving, the president spoke to those gathered and called his term "the honor of a lifetime."

"And I just want to say goodbye," Trump added, "but hopefully it's not a long term goodbye. We'll see each other again."

Their helicopter is now heading to Joint Base Andrews, where Trump is expected to deliver his final remarks as president at a send-off ceremony and then will board Air Force One to travel to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. 

864d ago / 1:13 PM UTC
864d ago / 1:04 PM UTC

Pete Buttigieg says healing nation after last four years won't happen overnight

Pete Buttigieg, Biden's nominee for transportation secretary, said Wednesday that the incoming president and his team "recognizes that unity is hard work."

"It's not about pretending we don't have divisions. It's hard work," said Buttigieg in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" ahead of Biden's inaugural ceremony.

Buttigieg said that healing the divisions of the last four years, or 30 to 40 years or even the last 400 years  are not going to happen overnight. 

"But the question is whether we are making progress or whether we are falling back. We've had leadership pulling us back. Now we have leadership that's going to be pulling us forward," he said.

864d ago / 12:40 PM UTC

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

Current and former Trump administration officials say the Department of Homeland Security has made a last-minute effort to "sabotage" the incoming administration's efforts to unroll its tough immigration policies by signing legal agreements in recent weeks with state and local authorities that are intended to delay any such changes for 180 days.

Homeland Security has entered into agreements that would require the agency, even under the leadership of the Biden administration, to consult with certain state and local jurisdictions "before taking any action or making any decision that could reduce immigration enforcement, increase the number of illegal aliens in the United States, or increase immigration benefits or eligibility for benefits" for undocumented immigrants.

The states and localities would then have 180 days to provide comment — and the Biden officials would have to consider their input and provide a "detailed written explanation" if they rejected it.

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864d ago / 12:32 PM UTC

White House a bustle of activity on move-out day for Trumps

Image: Trump's final day in White House
A truck is seen outside of the West Wing of the White House on President Donald Trump's final day in office on Jan. 20, 2021.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

The lights in the White House residence are ablaze this morning as move-out day for the Trumps kicks into high gear. 

Inside the West Wing, White House residence staff and Secret Service agents appear to be starting the well-choreographed, yet frantic, changeover from one administration to the next. That process is even more taxing this year, since workers won’t have the usual amount of time afforded — given the cancellation of the inaugural luncheon and traditional in-person parade. 

Inside the West wing, the door to the Oval Office is wide open, which is almost never the case. Lights are on, and workers are seen inside. As NBC News previously reported, part of Wednesday’s changeover includes a Covid-19 deep-cleaning.

Moving boxes and cartons of disinfecting wipes sit on press staffers’ desks. No notes or letters left for future Biden staffers are visible. The White House press secretary’s office appears to be prepared for the imminent arrival of incoming press secretary Jen Psaki.

Outgoing press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she — and her baby — signed the inside of a desk drawer, tweeting this photo.

864d ago / 12:22 PM UTC
864d ago / 12:20 PM UTC

Biden to take immediate steps to undo key Trump initiatives, unveil immigration plan

Joe Biden plans to spend his first hours as president undoing many of the hallmarks of President Donald Trump's tenure and beginning to make his own mark on how the U.S. will respond to its multiple crises.

Biden will sign more than a dozen executive actions Wednesday when he arrives at the White House after having been sworn in as the 46th president, including measures to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, repeal Trump's restrictions on travel from several Muslim-majority countries, stop construction of the Southern border wall and mandate wearing masks on federal property.

He will also use his first day in office to propose a sweeping immigration reform bill, a lofty legislative task his administration has decided to take on from the start.

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864d ago / 12:19 PM UTC
864d ago / 12:17 PM UTC

'No choice but to be hopeful': Biden voters, in their own words, ahead of Inauguration Day

As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to be sworn in under an extraordinary security threat, his supporters are watching with mixed, and often conflicting, emotions.

Interviews with five Biden voters in different states revealed a maelstrom of relief and fury, elation and devastation, delight and exasperation. Many are grappling with reconciling their intense feelings of anger at President Donald Trump and some of his supporters over their roles in the violent riot on Capitol Hill with the joy that their candidate won — and that he is finally on the verge of taking office.

Others are experiencing the events of the last two weeks through a more political lens, struggling to embrace Biden's push for unity while preferring that he undertake deep, structural change on a myriad of issues. Some expressed fear for Biden's life and for the voters of color who supported Biden and whose pivotal votes Trump and his allies have sought to undermine.

All of these voters, first interviewed by NBC News before the Nov. 3 election, cast their ballots for Biden, some for very different reasons. Here's what they're thinking, fearing and feeling now, just ahead of Inauguration Day.

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864d ago / 12:16 PM UTC
864d ago / 12:14 PM UTC

ANALYSIS: Trump leaves office with little to show of his major promises, and a legacy of violent divisiveness

President Donald Trump did not build a wall or end American carnage or finish his term with a robust economy. His slogan was "Make America Great Again," but the lasting image of his term — rioters assaulting the U.S. Capitol and the country's republican form of governance, in his name — was anything but great.

The failed coup — if it was organized enough to call it that — concluded a presidency that often used Orwellian tools of Newspeak and Doublethink to communicate.

For most Americans — even in an era of deep and angry partisan division — the human effects of Trump's actions have been too obvious to ignore despite his use of the bully pulpit to distract from his struggles. More than 400,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the U.S. on his watch — after he said the disease would kill only tens of thousands and then just disappear — and medical experts say quicker and more effective leadership from the White House could have done more to contain the spread of the pandemic.

Like most presidents, Trump promised to unify the country. But he proved unable to work across the aisle in Congress. Aside from emergency spending to counter the catastrophic economic and public health effects of the disease — and the trade deal with Mexico and Canada — his policy achievements were limited to actions he could take without Congress' cooperation. That was particularly true after Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections, creating a roadblock for his most extreme proposals.

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864d ago / 11:55 AM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

864d ago / 11:50 AM UTC

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

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

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

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

864d ago / 11:29 AM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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864d ago / 11:11 AM UTC

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

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

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

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

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

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864d ago / 5:17 AM UTC
864d ago / 10:35 PM UTC

McConnell says impeachment Thursday 'at the earliest'


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

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

864d ago / 10:24 PM UTC

Pence to return to Indiana on Wednesday


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

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

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