Biden Reverses Trump Orders From Oval Office: Live Updates

President Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day — and the end of Donald Trump’s presidency — is here. Biden and Kamala Harris, America’s first female, first Black, and first South Asian vice-president, took the oath of office just before noon, in a ceremony that looked drastically different from previous inaugurations. Organizers had always planned to discourage crowds due to COVID-19, and following the attempted insurrection on January 6, the Capitol is like a fortress, surrounded by security checkpoints and protected by tens of thousands of National Guard troops. Following a last-minute pardoning spree, President Trump headed to Florida this morning, becoming the first president in 152 years to skip his successor’s inauguration. Below are the latest updates on the inaugural festivities and the transition to the Biden administration.

a group of people walking down the street: It’s official. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
It’s official. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Updates will appear in reverse-chronological order.

Some advice from those who have been there

Among the many segments of the virtual inauguration celebration was a gathering of former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. “It’s a new beginning,” Clinton advised. “Everybody needs to get off their high horse and reach out to their friends and neighbors and try to make it possible.”

Biden addresses the nation from the Lincoln Memorial

“It’s humbling to stand here in this place in front of these sacred words,” Biden said, speaking inside the monument. “Humbling out of respect to President Lincoln and the office we now share and humbling because of you, the American people.” After the short address, the inauguration programming shifted to an alarmingly-dressed Tom Hanks:

Press Secretary Jen Psaki promises ‘truth and transparency’

In the first White House press briefing of the new administration, press secretary Jen Psaki vowed to return to regular announcements after the procedure was dropped for months at a time under Trump. “There will be times when we see things differently in this room, among us all, and that’s OK,” Psaki said, adding that this relationship between the White House and its press corps is “part of democracy.”

“I’d love to take your questions,” Psaki said, a far tonal cry from the first press briefing in the Trump administration, when Sean Spicer yelled about inaugural crowd size.

A surreal moment for the new vice-president

Biden’s first Senate confirmation

Some of the less glamorous tasks of staffing an administration are underway

Biden rolls back Trump’s orders, says ex-president left “generous note”

Biden took his seat behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office where he signed a series of executive orders before the press. The U.S. reentered the Paris Climate Accords with a stroke of the new president’s pen, after Trump pulled the country out following Obama’s effort to get America behind the global effort to curb climate change. Biden also rescinded Trump’s travel ban on many majority-Muslim countries and mandated people wear masks on federal property.

Trump apparently left Biden a note, as is customary for outgoing presidents to do for their successors. “The president wrote a very generous letter,” Biden said. “Because it was private, I won’t talk about it until I talk to him. But it was generous.”

Harris swears in Ossoff, Warnock, Padilla

Hours after she was sworn in as the first Black, female, and South Asian vice president, Kamala Harris swore in a trio of men also making history as senators. Jon Ossoff is the first Jewish senator from Georgia and Raphael Warnock the first Black senator from the state. Both were elected on January 5 during runoff elections that ousted two Republican incumbents (Ossoff is also the first millennial senator.) Alex Padilla has become California’s first Latino senator, appointed by the state’s governor to fill Harris’s senate seat that she vacated to be vice president. Georgia’s Democratic senators mean the chamber is evenly split between the parties, leaving Harris (who is also president of the Senate) to cast potential tie-breaking votes. It’s also officially the end of Mitch McConnell’s reign as majority leader.

Biden is back at the White House

The Senate awaits its new majority

An interesting signature in the freshman Congressional class

A tough day in the QAnon world

Shortly after noon, when it became clear that the latest Q prophecy — that mass arrests of Democratic lawmakers would occur on the Capitol steps — would not be coming true, there appeared to be a crisis of faith among some of the more active QAnon circles. Most importantly, one of the primary boosters of the conspiracy, Ron Watkins, threw in the towel on the years-long affair, promoting “a new project” he’s “fleshing out” and saying that part of the importance of Q was “the friends and happy memories we made together over the past few years.”

The new Biden administration is already getting work done

Shortly after Biden went off-camera, the White House page for the 1776 Commission went blank. Published on Martin Luther King Day, the “patriotic education” effort justifies the three-fifths compromise and states that “the Civil Rights Movement was almost immediately turned to programs that ran counter to the lofty ideals of the founders.”

Later on Wednesday, the new president is expected to issue over a dozen executive orders canceling out many of the signature early policies and walkbacks of the Trump administration, including the end of the Muslim travel ban, the halting of the construction of the border wall, and a return to the Paris climate agreement.

And the GOP’s austerity talk has already begun

The pardon — and Pence — speculation is over

ED KILGORE: So with Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president, we can finally lay to rest the possibility that he might have become the 47th in the event of a Trump resignation followed by a very brief Pence administration as part of a deal including a pardon for the 45th president. It’s never been clear that was Trump’s plan, although a self-pardon was on the table until his final week in the White House. Certainly the breakdown in the Trump-Pence relationship when the normally subservient veep refused to help Trump steal a reelection on January 6 may have made a pardon deal impossible on both ends.

Reverend Silvester Beaman delivers a benediction

Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate, delivers soaring poem

Garth Brooks with a stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace”

Biden’s speech strikes a hopeful note and outlines challenges ahead as he officially becomes president

Joe Biden sworn in as President of the United States

Kamala Harris sworn in as Vice President

Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath of office.

Lady Gaga belts out the National Anthem

Several Supreme Court justices are skipping the inauguration

The three oldest justices, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito, have opted to skip the inauguration, citing COVID concerns. “Several of the Justices elected not to attend the inauguration ceremony in light of the public health risks posed by the COVID pandemic,” said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg. This is the first time since 2001 that some justices have not been present for the event.

Roy Blunt gives a paean to American democracy

The Missouri senator, who questioned the 2020 election results back in November, was all about comity and tradition today.

Amy Klobuchar speaks first

Weather update

Lawmakers are taking their places for the inauguration

Capitol riot hero Eugene Goodman will escort Kamala Harris

Goodman drew the mob of Trump supporters away from the Senate chamber during the attack, protecting lawmakers who were only about 100 feet away.

A disturbing reminder

The nuclear football is on the move

Biden and Harris have arrived at the Capitol

How White House staffers handled another awkward transition

ED KILGORE: Trump and Pence following the tradition of leaving a note for their successors got some attention today. And while we don’t know what the notes said, it did provide a reminder of the Bill Clinton-George W. Bush transition where some Clinton staffers expressed their displeasure at the circumstances whereby the 43d president was given a victory over Al Gore by deleting the “W” keys on the keyboards they left behind. Years ago, Bruce Reed, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under Clinton (and about to become Biden’s deputy chief of staff), told me he had not tampered with his keyboard, but did leave his successor a bottle of scotch with a note reading: “You’ll need it.”

Biden attends church with bipartisan group of lawmakers

After spending the night at Blair House, President-election Joe Biden attended a service at Washington’s Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle along with his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and her husband, Doug Emhoff. At Biden’s invitation, they were joined by a group of lawmakers from both parties, including Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, and House leaders Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy.

Biden’s plans for day one

Amid all the pomp, Biden will start getting to work.

Biden’s pre-inauguration “honeymoon”

According to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll, Biden’s favorability numbers are higher now than they were during the campaign. Per Politico:

Since winning the election, Biden’s favorable rating in POLITICO/Morning Consult polls has ranged between 54 percent and 57 percent, his standing in the latest poll released on the eve of his swearing-in.

Biden’s bounce is still smaller than most other recent presidents, including Barack Obama, whose initial approval ratings were above 60 percent. But he is still easily outpacing Trump, whose poll numbers increased only slightly after winning the 2016 election and tumbled soon after taking office as a result of his combative style and unpopular policies.

Views of Biden, while positive overall, break sharply along partisan lines. Roughly nine in 10 Democratic voters, 91 percent, have a favorable opinion of the president-elect, but only 16 percent of Republicans view him favorably. Among independents, 52 percent view Biden favorably, while 41 percent have an unfavorable opinion.

Trump left Biden a letter

Though Trump refused to attend Biden’s inauguration – and wouldn’t concede defeat until after an attack on the Capitol that he instigated – he did leave his successor a note, as is tradition. Though Trump proudly showed off his letter from Obama to journalists shortly after he took office, Biden will probably keep the contents of Trump’s note to himself for now.

Trump speaks at Joint Base Andrews

a man jumping in the air: Pete Marovich - Pool/Getty Images

© Pete Marovich – Pool/Getty Images
Pete Marovich – Pool/Getty Images

Trump, speaking without a teleprompter, delivered brief remarks at Joint Base Andrews before boarding a flight headed to Florida.

After thanking his family and staffers, Trump began running down a list of his dubious achievements. “As the athletes would say, we’ve left it all on the field … you can’t work harder,” said the president, who golfed more than any previous president and spent much of his time at the White House engaged in “executive time.”

Trump referred to the pandemic in the past tense at one point, then said he wanted to give “great love” to all of the people who have suffered due to the “China virus.”

Trump never mentioned Biden by name, but he wished the new administration luck and predicted they will have “great success” – thanks in part to him. “They have the foundation to do something very spectacular,” Trump said. “We’ve put [the country] in a position like it’s never been before.”

After some weak chants of “Thank you Trump,” from the crowd, Trump wrapped up by thanking Mike Pence and some members of Congress. “We really worked well with Congress, at least certain elements of Congress,” he said.

“So have a good life, we will see you soon. Thank you very much,” Trump concluded.

Then Trump stepped away from the lectern and “YMCA” started blaring over the speakers.

The scouring of the White House is underway

The White House always gets a cleaning when one president exits and another moves in, but as the New York Times explains, this year the process was made even more complicated by COVID-19 and Trump’s refusal to accept the election results:

It’s the awkward pas de deux performed every four or eight years when one family moves in and another moves out, an undertaking carried out by the 90-person White House residence staff in about five hours. A complicated, highly choreographed process is done on a tight schedule that often requires boxing up whatever has been left unpacked — some outgoing presidents are more prepared to leave the executive mansion than others.

This year, people involved in the process said, moving day also involves additional cleaning and safety precautions because of the coronavirus.

“The staff is sleeping on cots, in stairwells,” said Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to the first lady Laura Bush, including during the 2009 handoff to the Obamas. No matter how prepared they are, she said, “it’s always chaotic.”

Trump leaves the White House for the last time as president

President Trump squeezes in one last rally

Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News reports that Trump plans to speak for about 15 minutes, starting around 8:20, before he departs Joint Base Andrews in Maryland for Mar-a-Lago this morning.

Biden’s Wednesday schedule has been released

And it’s a lot more detailed than the “many calls and many meetings” that have populated the work calendar of Trump’s final days in office.

Biden memorializes the 400,000 COVID dead

In a speech at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on Tuesday night, the president-elect commemorated those lost to the pandemic and gave thanks to the health-care workers who have put their lives on the line. “To heal we must remember,” Biden said. “It’s hard sometimes to remember. But that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation.”

Pence won’t be at Trump’s farewell ceremony

And it seems he wants everyone to know it.

Axios reported shortly after the Pence announcement that House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t be at Trump’s going-away ceremony either, choosing instead to attend morning mass with the incoming president.

President Trump’s farewell video

Trump on the incoming Biden administration: “We want them to have luck — a very important word.”

12 National Guard members removed from Biden inauguration

Twelve National Guard members have been removed from inauguration duty after it was discovered that they have ties to right-wing militia groups or posted inappropriate comments online, according to the AP. The FBI has been screening all 25,000 troops guarding the inauguration amid heightened security concerns. Two of those troops were removed for “making inappropriate comments or texts,” Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman told NBC News. Officials said there was no threat to President-elect Biden.

Biden leaves Delaware for Washington

President-elect Biden got emotional while thanking Delawareans as he set out for D.C. from the Delaware National Guard headquarters, which is named for his late son, Beau.

Biden also reflected on making a similar trip 12 years ago with Barack Obama, and what it means to have Kamala Harris as his VP.

QAnon followers reportedly considered posing as National Guard at the inauguration

On Monday, the FBI reportedly warned law-enforcement agencies that adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory — many of whom were at the January 6 Trump rally — have discussed posing as National Guard members in order to breach the heavy security at the inauguration. According to the Washington Post, “the FBI also said it had observed people downloading and sharing maps of sensitive locations in Washington and discussing how those facilities could be used to interfere in security during the inauguration.”

Concerns over an empty going-away party

Trump’s newfound status as a pariah to almost everyone but the Republican base has put him in a pickle come Wednesday. Ex-White House director of communications Anthony Scaramucci — who was booted from Trump’s sphere of influence following his brief time in the administration — said that he had been invited, perhaps as a way to boost attendance. “Trust me, that had to be a mass email if one of them got sent to me,” he told Inside Edition. Backing up that possibility, the Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus reports that “some recipients have been surprised the invite offered them five guests.”

It’s time for a literal White House deep clean

Once the Trumps have departed the residence on Wednesday — without ceremonially greeting the incoming president and First Lady on the White House North Portico — staff and outside contractors will scrub the building, as is standard during transitions, pandemic or otherwise. According to a source familiar with the process who spoke with CNN, that will include “moving furniture and vacuuming, cleaning baseboards, vacuuming drapes, wiping down shades, cleaning chandeliers, washing windows, high dusting.”

Passing the nuclear football

Marc Ambinder has written a fascinating Twitter thread about the very complicated process of passing control of America’s nuclear arsenal from Trump to Biden on Wednesday, including how everyone involved might respond if Trump does something crazy:

What if Trump orders something deranged between now and noon ET on 1/6? Technically, if the order is lawful, it will be carried out. Practically, because there are so many humans in the way, unless there is unambiguous warning of an incoming attack — a “spasm” scenario — it will be extraordinarily difficult to assume that the officers and NCOs will respond to an unfamiliar or unexpected order without consulting with lawyers, higher-ups, civilians, and others.

Moving trucks unload at Mar-a-Lago

West Palm Beach’s WPTV caught sight of them on Monday:

Several large moving trucks arrived at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club on Palm Beach Monday morning, sparking speculation that he’ll move to South Florida once he leaves office. WPTV Chopper 5 flew above Mar-a-Lago around 9:30 a.m. and spotted at least two trucks from JK Moving Services stationed in front of the club, along with workers carting large moving boxes into the property.

In December, some of Trump’s soon-to-be permanent neighbors made it clear they were not thrilled about his relocation.

Kamala Harris has resigned from the Senate

The now-former California senator formally submitted her resignation letter to Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday. Newsom has already announced that he will name California secretary of State Alex Padilla to replace Harris in the U.S. Senate. Padilla will be sworn in in the coming days.

Harris also wrote a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed to mark her resignation and promise Californians she’ll continue to look out for them as VP.

Trump adds a ton of names to his National Garden of American Heroes

The new D.C. monument, which Trump announced over the summer, will contain statues of 244 people. The president named them in an executive order on Monday, and the list is contains both obvious and seemingly random selections:

For instance:

CityLab’s Kriston Capps, who criticized Trump’s plan on several grounds after it was announced in July, has posted a Twitter thread pointing out the fraught politics of the hero garden in light of Trump’s obsession with monuments and his attempts to defend statues of Confederate figures. He likens Trump’s garden to a “Social Studies Hall of Fame.”

It’s still not clear where the hero garden will be built, or when — or whether or not Biden will support or modify the plan.

Biden and Harris spend MLK Day doing a service project in Philly

The incoming president and vice-president worked a food-bank assembly line for the organization Philabundance on Monday, joined by several members of Biden’s family:

Small fire prompts brief shutdown at Capitol

A fire at a nearby homeless encampment led the Secret Service to briefly shut down and partially evacuate the U.S. Capitol on Monday morning. There was a brief scare after an announcement went out about a possible external security threat — but it was a false alarm. There will likely be more of those in the coming days amid the high tensions in the city.

Biden hopes his speech will unify the country, if that’s possible

The president-elect has been working on his speech for the inauguration ever since winning the election, and will lean on the central theme of his campaign, the Washington Post reports:

While Biden will nod to the violence and to the unprecedented security that has locked down the capital city, he plans to make a broader case for national healing and to make government work again. What might be most remarkable about the inaugural address he plans to deliver this week is just how similar the core message and themes are to what he said when he kicked off his third bid for the presidency in April 2019 – long before the coronavirus, the recession and so much else.

“What you’ll hear from President-elect Biden on Wednesday will be a reflection of a lot of what you heard from him on the campaign trail, which is that he believes we can bring this country together,” incoming White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said on Sunday. “He believes that we have to bring this country together and that a unified America is the only way that we’re going to be able to tackle the massive crises that we’re grappling with. … This will be a moment where President-elect Biden will really work to try to turn the page on the divisiveness and the hatred over the last four years and really lay out a positive, optimistic vision for the country.”

Two key aides helping Biden formulate his inaugural address are longtime adviser Mike Donilon, who helps with every major speech, and Vinay Reddy, the director of Biden’s speechwriting operation and a veteran of Biden’s vice presidential office.

How to watch the inauguration ceremony

Our colleagues at Vulture have put together a handy guide to the schedule and your viewing options. The main ceremony begins at 12 p.m. on Wednesday.

This post will be continuously updated to include new reporting and commentary.

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