US President-elect Joe Biden flanked by wife Dr. Jill Biden arriving for his inauguration as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Patrick Semansky / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK SEMANSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
US President-elect Joe Biden flanked by wife Dr. Jill Biden arriving for his inauguration as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Patrick Semansky / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK SEMANSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

PoliticsJanuary 21, 2021

Inauguration Live: Joe Biden gets to work after being sworn in as president

US President-elect Joe Biden flanked by wife Dr. Jill Biden arriving for his inauguration as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Patrick Semansky / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK SEMANSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
US President-elect Joe Biden flanked by wife Dr. Jill Biden arriving for his inauguration as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Patrick Semansky / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK SEMANSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

Welcome to The Spinoff’s US presidential inauguration live blog: inauguration news, analysis and reaction, updated through Wednesday and Thursday. The inauguration ceremony begins at 5.15am Thursday, NZ time, and Joe Biden takes the oath of office around 6am.

3.10pm: New Radicals reform to perform one of the greatest pop singles ever

Forgive the editorialising, but it’s my live blog today, and if I want to claim ‘You Get What You Give’ is really that good, then by god I will. The band who made it, the New Radicals, dissolved for good shortly after its release in 1998, but as singer-songwriter Gregg Alexander explains in the video below, having discovered it was a Biden family anthem, he made a pledge to perform it if Joe Biden won the election. And so he did, at the Biden-Harris virtual inaugural parade following this morning’s inauguration.

Writing today for Esquire, Dave Holmes explains why the song remains so powerful, 25 years on: “The song itself is about the resilience of the human spirit. Its chugging piano is the sound of a soul struggling to see the bright side… It is the perfect jam for a tense time in history, a song whose optimism is hard-won.”

Holmes continues: “It is for that reason that the song has significance to the Biden family. In his memoir Promise Me, Dad, President Biden reveals that his son Beau used ‘You Get What You Give’ as a psych-up song for his chemotherapy treatments, and when it became clear that his brain cancer was inoperable, the family continued to play it for him to keep his spirits up. In honor of Beau, First Gentleman Doug Emhoff uses it as his walk-on music. It’s in the pantheon.”

11.40am: A new look Oval Office

For context: Andrew Jackson, the 7th president of the United States, was an was an executioner, a slaver, an ethnic cleanser, and an economic illiterate. Benjamin Franklin… was not.

Other changes Biden has made include busts of Martin Luther King Jr, Robert F. Kennedy and labour organiser Cesar Chavez; a large portrait of Franklin Roosevelt; and updated rug and drapes (Biden is using the ones from Bill Clinton’s Oval Office, according to the Washington Post).

11.20am: Bernie Sanders becomes a meme, again

Live updates editor Stewart Sowman-Lund writes:

In the patriarchal society we live in, first ladies are usually the political figures to be singled out for their attire and asked “who are you wearing”. But now, the glass ceiling has been smashed. Now, there’s a new fashion icon in town and his name is Bernard Sanders.

The former presidential hopeful managed to take away some of Joe Biden’s significant limelight this morning, thanks to his now iconic get up. It’s possibly the first event Lady Gaga’s been at where she hasn’t been the best dressed.

Shortly after the inauguration, #BerniesMittens started trending on Twitter. Even more amusing is the fact that Bernie appears to be wearing the same coat as in this famous meme:

Let’s take a look at some of the internet’s best efforts to celebrate the fashion stylings of Bernie Sanders.

Bernie in the world of film and television

Given his presidential dreams are likely now over, perhaps Bernie should transition into a career in entertainment? Here we see him alongside Tom Hanks, the Muppets and even popping up in Watchmen. Can we do some sort of George Lucas thing and put Bernie back into these for real??

A champion of the working class

This is possibly just a real photo, I cannot confirm.

Steal his look! 

I know it’s only January, but think how many inauguration day Bernies there are going to be on Halloween. For the record, I think this meme has the gloves wrong: they need to look more homely, like they were knitted by your now dead, probably racist, grandma.

He’s a busy man!

It wasn’t just Bernie’s coat and gloves that caught the internet’s attention: people were in love with the casual manner in which he turned up. Maybe he’s salty he didn’t win, or maybe he just really needs to get his letters posted.

Netflix and chilly(y weather)

Look, that’s the best pun I could come up with.

Despite the cold, Bernie bravely took one glove off to use his phone. Probably it was just to take a photo, but possibly… he was watching Tenet?

Bonus: I know it’s indulgent to include my own poor attempt at a meme, but I think we all know Bernie’s not going to be into sea shanties?

9.00am: PM Ardern congratulates president Biden

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has issued a statement congratulating president Joe Biden on his inauguration.

“I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both our countries,” Ardern said.

“New Zealand and the United States have shared interests in addressing global challenges including climate change, the Covid-19 economic recovery, and the security, prosperity and sustainability of the Indo-Pacific and Pacific Island regions. We have a common investment in the international rules-based order and I welcome President Biden’s intentions for the US to re-join the Paris Agreement and halt its withdrawal from the World Health Organisation.

“President Biden is a good friend of New Zealand, and we have fond memories of his 2016 visit to our shores. Under his presidency the strong and close relationship that New Zealand enjoys with the United States will continue to develop and flourish.

“President Biden’s message of unity as he takes office is one that resonates with New Zealanders and, on behalf of New Zealand, I wish him well as he begins his presidency.”

8.15am: Biden’s day one executive actions

The new president will sign more than a dozen executive actions later today, including many that reverse some of his predecessor’s most controversial policies. His so-called day one actions include rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and World Health Organisation, rescinding permits for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, and ending the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries. Biden will also sign orders halting evictions and student loan payments during the Covid-19 pandemic, and issue a mask mandate for all federal property and interstate travel that will last for 100 days.

Beyond the day one actions, Biden has signalled to Congress that he wants his massive US$1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to be the first issue the house takes up after he is inaugurated. He has also pledged that he will prioritise an immigration plan offering a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, and revoke Trump’s ban on military service by transgender Americans.

7.25am: And what about Trump?

In the early hours of this morning, NZ time, president Donald Trump and his wife Melania departed the White House and boarded a flight to Florida, accompanied by the song that has become a bizarre soundtrack to his final year in office: The Village People’s ‘YMCA’.

This is what Melania Trump was wearing when they touched down:

6.55am: A star is born

No, not Lady Gaga, but Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old Los Angeles poet who gave a stunning performance this morning as part of the inaugural ceremony. If you watch one thing from the inauguration, watch this.

6.40am: Biden calls for nation to ‘end this uncivil war’ in inaugural address

Joe Biden hit out at “lies told for power and profit” during his inaugural address this morning, following his swearing in as the 46th president of the United States. He gave his remarks on the West Lawn of the US Capitol, where two weeks ago a mob stormed the building spurred by the false belief that the election had been stolen.

“Here we stand just days after a mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever,” said Biden.

“To all of those who do not support us, let me say this. Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That is democracy. That is America. The right to dissent peaceably is perhaps this nation’s greatest strength.”

He added: “Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and profit. Each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans, especially as leaders … to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”

“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”

During the speech, as his “first act as president”, Biden asked for a moment of silence to remember those who have died from Covid-19.

6.10am: QAnon is confused

5.55am: Joe Biden has been sworn in as president

A few minutes earlier than expected, Joe Biden has been sworn in as 46th president of the United States. He swore the oath of office on his large family bible which has been in his family since 1893 and used by Biden each time he’s been sworn into elected office during the course of his career. He is now giving his inaugural address.

Joe Biden takes the oath of office, accompanied by his wife Jill.
Kamala Harris takes the oath of office

5.45am: Kamala Harris takes oath of office

Kamala Harris has just been sworn in as vice-president of the United States. After a Jennifer Lopez performance of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land’ and ‘America the Beautiful’, and other speeches, it will be Joe Biden’s turn around 6am. Prior to Harris taking the oath of office, Lady Gaga sang the national anthem.

Lady Gaga performs the national anthem

5.20am: Welcome to inauguration day

Joe Biden has just arrived on the dais on a snowy Washington DC morning and the inauguration ceremony is underway. Amy Klobuchar is among the senators and other dignitaries making opening remarks, and Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem, before Kamala Harris and Joe Biden take the oaths of office.

9.15pm: Kim Dotcom claims he was offered Trump pardon

Kim Dotcom, the New Zealand-based tech entrepreneur who is facing multiple copyright infringement and money laundering charges in the US, has claimed on Twitter that Trump’s team raised the possibility of a pardon. However Dotcom says he informed them he’d only accept if Julian Assange and Edward Snowden were also pardoned and failing that, he’d “trade my pardon for Assange”.

Neither Assange nor Snowden was on the extensive list of pardons and commutations released by the Trump administration earlier tonight.

In November 2020 the NZ Supreme Court ruled that Dotcom could be extradited to the United States to face charges, but that Dotcom and his co-defendants could challenge the decision through a judicial review. In the meantime Dotcom remains in New Zealand.

The Spinoff has approached Dotcom for further comment and we’ll update you if we hear back.

6.30pm: Steve Bannon has his pardon

After days of back and forth between Donald Trump and his aides over whether to pardon his former top adviser Steve Bannon – who was charged in August with defrauding thousands of donors to an organisation raising funds to help build the border wall – the decision is in. According to the New York Times, Bannon will be preemptively pardoned, joining nearly 150 other people to receive last-minute clemency as Trump prepares to leave office.

5.45pm: Why all the flags?

Unlike previous inaugurations, the crowd tomorrow will be small – only around 1000 people will witness Biden take the oath of office in person – due to both the pandemic and the ongoing security threat to government following the Capitol riot on January 6. To represent the members of the public who can’t attend, the Presidential Inaugural Committee has planted 200,000 American flags on the National Mall.

Yesterday the flags were illuminated in a light show creating 56 pillars to represent the 50 states and US territories, in a ceremony that took roughly 46 seconds – in honor of Biden, who will be the 46th president of the United States.

The illuminated “Field of Flags” on the National Mall on January 18. (Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

5.15pm: What’s going on with the Trump pardons?

It’s 11.15pm on the night before he leaves office, so where is Trump’s final batch of pardons? According to reports, the list of people expected to receive clemency has ballooned to more than 100, including white-collar criminals, high-profile rappers and a number of people closely connected to the Trump administration. And also, rumour has it, Tiger King’s Joe Exotic.

A sticking point, insiders say, is whether to include former adviser Steve Bannon on the list. Bannon has been charged with defrauding thousands of donors who contributed to We Build the Wall, a campaign to support Trump’s efforts to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico. “One concern is Bannon’s possible connection to the January 6 riot of Trump supporters at the US Capitol,” reports CNN.

Trump had been widely expected to issue preemptive pardons to many close aides, including his own family and, potentially, himself. However, CNN reports, “the January 6 riots that led to Trump’s second impeachment have complicated his desire to pardon himself, his kids and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and a source close to the process said those are no longer expected.

“After the riot, advisers encouraged Trump to forgo a self-pardon because it would appear like he was guilty of something, according to one person familiar with the conversations. Several of Trump’s closest advisers have also urged him not to grant clemency to anyone involved in the siege on the US Capitol, despite Trump’s initial stance that those involved had done nothing wrong.”

4.30pm: How many people will attend the inauguration? 

Donald Trump famously (and infamously) bragged about the size of the crowd for his inauguration, despite it being far from the biggest in American history. Still, I’m sure – if he had Twitter access – he’d be gloating at the fact Joe Biden’s inauguration is set to be a substantially smaller affair. In fact, it’ll probably be the smallest on modern record.

The Covid-19 pandemic, along with security concerns following the Capitol riots, have resulted in a more “virtual” inauguration ceremony than in previous years, with officials calling on the public to watch the proceedings from their couch. In past years, literally hundreds of thousands of people have attended the inauguration. This year, it’s expected to be closer to just 1000 – but flags have been placed on the Capitol grounds to replace the crowds.

Quite possibly the largest feature of Biden’s ceremony will be the vast number of National Guard members brought in following the Capitol riot. Over 25,000 armed guards will make sure that it’s impossible for any anguished Trump backers to turn tomorrow’s celebrations into a disaster. To make sure no inside attack is possible, the FBI is vetting all service members on hand in the capital to support the inauguration.

Despite the smaller turnout, tomorrow’s events are set to have all the pomp you’d expect for the first day of a new administration, with pop stars and celebrities on hand to mark the occasion. 

4.15pm: Biden bids tearful farewell to his home state

Earlier today, Joe Biden said his goodbyes to Delaware, the northeastern state that – excepting his eight years as vice president in Washington – has been Biden’s home since 1953. He delivered a speech at the Major Joseph R. (Beau) Biden III Armed Forces Reserve Center, named for his son Beau, who died in 2015 from brain cancer. Beau Biden served in Iraq with the Delaware Army National Guard, and the centre was named for him in 2016.

Before boarding a flight to Washington DC, Biden spoke of his love for the state, tears streaming down his face.

“Excuse the emotion, but when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart. And the hearts of all. We love you all. You’ve been there for us in the good and the bad. You never walked away. And I am proud, proud, proud to be a son of Delaware.

“And I am even more proud to be standing here doing this from the Major Beau Biden facility. Ladies and gentlemen, I only have one regret. He’s not here. Because, we should be introducing him as president.”

4.00pm: What will Trump be doing tomorrow?

It’s pretty well known by now that outgoing president Donald Trump intends to throw out the rulebook when it comes to his conduct on inauguration day. In fact, he’ll become the first president in more than a century to not attend the swearing in ceremony marking the start of a new administration. The last president to skip their successor’s inauguration was Andrew Johnson in 1869.

So far, Trump has refused to even admit defeat and, despite officially conceding in a pre-recorded message shortly after the Capitol riots, has not publicly said the name “Joe Biden” in weeks. Tomorrow, Trump will be farewelled about four hours ahead of Biden’s inauguration at a military airfield in Maryland. He will then leave for the last time as president, taking a final trip on Air Force One to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Despite his devotion to a big crowd, reports suggest Trump has been struggling to get attendees for his goodbye. A leaked copy of an invite revealed that people could bring five guests with them to the farewell, suggesting the guest list was running thin. In addition, a number of ex-Trump loyalists turned opponents managed to make the cut for an invite – including Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House comms director fired after just 10 days in the role who is now a vocal Trump critic. “Trust me, that had to be a mass email if one of them got sent to me,” Scaramucci told an interviewer.

3.55pm: The schedule of events

Traditionally, the arrival of a new president is marked not just by a single inauguration ceremony, but a whole schedule of official events throughout the week. Already today Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and their respective spouses have attended a memorial ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to honour the American lives lost – a horrific 400,000 of them, as of today – as a result of the Covid pandemic. At the same time, cities and towns across the country illuminated buildings and rang church bells in a “national moment of unity and remembrance”. A virtual concert celebrating the Black community has just finished up, and another honouring Latinos’ contribution to the United States is on now. You can watch both shows here.

Tomorrow events kick off bright and early: the inauguration ceremony starts at 11.15am Eastern Time (5.15am NZT) and Biden is sworn in at 12pm Eastern Time (6am NZT). Kamala Harris will take the vice-presidential oath of office, and then it’s Biden’s turn, after which he will give his inaugural address. That’s the speech at which Donald Trump delivered his apocalyptically dark vision of America four years ago:

“The American carnage stops right here, right now. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first.”

Expect Biden’s speech to be just a tad more uplifting.

After the ceremony, Biden, Harris and their spouses visit Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, joined by Barack and Michelle Obama, George W. Bush and Laura Bush, and Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.

From there, Joe and Jill Biden travel to their new home in the White House accompanied by a giant military escort, an event traditionally followed by an inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. This year, due to Covid, the parade is going virtual as a “Parade Across America” featuring “diverse, dynamic performances in communities across the country”.

At 8.30pm (2.30pm NZT) is the 90 minute Celebrating America primetime TV show hosted by Tom Hanks and featuring performances and remarks from Jon Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Eva Longoria, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake and Kerry Washington, among others.

In New Zealand, the inauguration day events will be carried live on Amazon Prime Video; you’ll also be able to watch them on Youtube, Facebook, news websites including CNN, and the official Biden Inaugural website.

3.30pm: Back and blogging the final day of Donald Trump’s presidency

Early tomorrow morning NZ time, Joe Biden will take the oath of office and be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. Any inauguration is a historic moment, but this one is more historic than most, given that it also marks the end of the worst presidency ever to darken the doors of the White House. Biden’s inauguration itself won’t kick off for some time yet, but we’ve pulled The Spinoff’s rickety liveblogging apparatus out of the garage (where it’s been chilling until Live Updates’ official return next week) to bring you all the news from DC, including the build up to the ceremony, the security situation in light of the Capitol insurrection, and how Donald Trump is spending his last day as president.

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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