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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the highlights:

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

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

— Some QAnon followers lose hope after inauguration.

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

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

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

737d ago / 1:50 AM UTC

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.

737d ago / 1:00 AM UTC

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. 

737d ago / 12:55 AM UTC

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

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.

737d ago / 12:12 AM UTC
737d ago / 12:11 AM UTC

Senate confirms Avril Haines as Biden's intelligence director

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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.

737d ago / 12:04 AM UTC

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.

Facebook

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.

737d ago / 11:53 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 11:30 PM UTC

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

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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. 

737d ago / 11:26 PM UTC

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

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.

737d ago / 11:19 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 11:18 PM UTC
737d ago / 11:06 PM UTC

'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."

737d ago / 11:05 PM UTC
737d ago / 10:44 PM UTC

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

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.

737d ago / 10:37 PM UTC

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.  

737d ago / 10:29 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 10:21 PM UTC

White House freezes federal rulemaking until administration can review

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.

737d ago / 10:15 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 10:00 PM UTC

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

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.

737d ago / 9:51 PM UTC

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
737d ago / 9:51 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 9:41 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 9:34 PM UTC

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."

737d ago / 9:32 PM UTC

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

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. 

737d ago / 9:27 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 9:17 PM UTC

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

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."

737d ago / 8:56 PM UTC

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

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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.

737d ago / 8:52 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 8:46 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 8:34 PM UTC

Parks and Recreation's Leslie Knope celebrates Biden presidency

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.

737d ago / 8:21 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 8:15 PM UTC

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

737d ago / 8:11 PM UTC

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

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.

737d ago / 8:08 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 7:54 PM UTC

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

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.

737d ago / 7:52 PM UTC

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

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.

737d ago / 7:39 PM UTC
737d ago / 7:39 PM UTC

'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.

737d ago / 7:27 PM UTC

'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.

737d ago / 7:25 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 7:16 PM UTC

'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.

737d ago / 7:05 PM UTC

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

737d ago / 6:59 PM UTC

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
737d ago / 6:56 PM UTC
737d ago / 6:55 PM UTC

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. 

737d ago / 6:47 PM UTC
737d ago / 6:40 PM UTC

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.

737d ago / 6:36 PM UTC
737d ago / 6:30 PM UTC

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:

737d ago / 6:29 PM UTC

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.”