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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.

'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.

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

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

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.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.