was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, calling for unity as he assumed leadership of a nation battered by a once-in-a-century pandemic and the recent deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol.
At a midday ceremony overshadowed by health and safety concerns, Mr. Biden was sworn in by Chief Justice
repeating the oath of office on the west steps of the Capitol with his hand on a family Bible. The inauguration was attended by a relatively small, distanced audience, a contrast to the crowds that typically line the National Mall to celebrate a new administration.
Declaring “democracy has prevailed” in the face of repeated challenges to the election results, Mr. Biden implored the public to stand together in the face of division and crisis.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue,” Mr. Biden said. “Or rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”
became the first president to skip his successor’s inauguration in 150 years, instead leaving Washington for his Florida estate early in the morning, vowing in his final public comments as president, “We will be back in some form.” After questioning the election results for months after his loss, Mr.
encouraged his supporters two weeks ago to march on the Capitol to stop Mr. Biden’s victory from being certified. The crowd that assembled at the Capitol breached the building, leaving several people dead and heightening security concerns about the inauguration.
was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice
making history as the first female vice president. The first Black woman and first of Indian descent nominated on a major party’s ticket, she becomes the highest-ranking woman ever in the presidential line of succession.
Later in the day, in her new role as president of the Senate, she administered the oath of office to three new Democratic senators, flipping control of that chamber and giving Democrats full control of Congress.
Former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife,
did attend the inauguration Wednesday.
The new president takes office as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the country, with the U.S. recently surpassing 400,000 reported deaths and unemployment claims rising to their highest point since the pandemic hit last March. He must also grapple with the divisions laid bare by the recent violence and the reckoning around racial justice, which came into focus with protests last summer.
With his inaugural address, Mr. Biden asked a deeply divided country to look past their differences and sought to draw a contrast with Mr. Trump, who took a combative approach to politics during his four years in office and had urged supporters to march to the Capitol before the riot on Jan. 6.
Mr. Biden made no mention of his predecessor, but sought to use the moment as an inflection point for the nation.
“Let’s start afresh, all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again,” Mr. Biden said, adding “Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path.”
Referencing the Jan. 6 attack by a pro-Trump mob, Mr. Biden stressed that they didn’t succeed in disrupting democracy and declared: “It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”
Mr. Biden asked those who opposed his candidacy during the contentious presidential election to give him a chance, pledging to be a president for all Americans. After Mr. Trump had for weeks said without evidence that he was the actual winner of the election, Mr. Biden criticized “lies told for power and for profit” and said that “each of us has a duty and a responsibility” to defend truth.
He sought to put the moment in historical perspective, referencing
Martin Luther King Jr.
and the women’s suffrage movement as he celebrated Ms. Harris’s ascent to the vice presidency.
“Don’t tell me things can’t change,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Biden promised to fight divisions in the country, pointing to “the rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.” Members of several far-right militant groups have been charged for alleged roles in the riot. Investigators have pursued charges against more than 100 participants of the riot to date and are examining nearly 400 subjects.
And he stressed the challenges ahead, including the pandemic, racial inequities, climate change and instability on the world stage.
“Together we shall write an American story of hope, not fear,” he said. “Of unity, not division, of light not darkness… may this be the story that guides us.”
The president made his remarks during a ceremony that featured
singing the national anthem and an invocation from the Rev. Leo J. O’Donovan, a Jesuit Catholic priest and theologian who served as president of Georgetown University.
In the wake of the Capitol attack, security measures were heightened around the inauguration, with at least 20,000 National Guard troops in Washington, a massive perimeter around the Capitol and pleas from local officials that the public stay away.
At 78 years old, Mr. Biden is the oldest person to assume the presidency, ending a lifelong pursuit of the office and capping a durable political run that began with his first Senate victory during Richard Nixon’s presidency. Mr. Biden’s public career also has been marked by tragedy: the death of his first wife and daughter in a car crash shortly after his election to the Senate in 1972 and the passing of his 46-year-old son, Beau, who died of cancer in 2015 while Mr. Biden served as vice president.
After the inauguration, Mr. Biden, Ms. Harris and their spouses visited Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They were joined by former U.S. presidents
George W. Bush
who is 96 and a cancer survivor, didn’t attend the inauguration.
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With his family, Mr. Biden then made his way to the White House, getting out of the motorcade to walk the final steps along Pennsylvania Avenue and pausing to greet journalists and others along the route. He and Dr. Biden posed on the steps of the White House before going inside.
Looking to show immediate action, Mr. Biden arrived in the Oval Office late in the afternoon and began to sign executive orders as promised, including one rejoining the Paris climate accord and one ordering the wearing of masks on federal property. He also extended a pause on interest and principal payments for federal student loans, kept in place restrictions on evictions and foreclosures, and ended bans on travel from 13 Muslim-majority and African nations.
“There’s no time to start like today,” said Mr. Biden, who wore a mask as he signed some of the orders. He has also proposed a $1.9 trillion plan to help Americans weather the economic shock of the pandemic and pump more money into testing and vaccine distribution, as well as seeking an immigration overhaul.
Mr. Biden told reporters that Mr. Trump had written him “a very generous letter” that was waiting for him when he arrived. Mr. Biden said he wouldn’t talk about its contents until he spoke to Mr. Trump.
As Mr. Biden took office, congratulations poured in from world leaders. French President
welcomed the U.S. back to the Paris climate agreement. British Prime Minister
said he looked forward to working with Mr. Biden. And
the prime minister of Ireland, where Mr. Biden has strong ancestral ties, hailed him as a “true friend of Ireland.”
The inauguration day opened with a final split-screen involving the two presidential rivals. As Mr. Trump boarded Air Force One for his final trip to Florida as president, Mr. Biden and his wife,
departed Blair House, where they spent the night, to head to Mass with congressional leaders as he seeks to project unity in his early days in office.
Mr. Trump exited the White House shortly after 8 a.m., on the way to Joint Base Andrews, where he took part in a brief farewell ceremony. After social-media platforms such as Twitter banned him, he has been a muted presence during his final days in office, but issued a flurry of pardons to allies and celebrities hours before he left.
Before family and friends gathered at Andrews, Mr. Trump said it had been an “incredible four years.” He listed some of his policy achievements, offered his respects to the people who have suffered from the pandemic and said it was his “greatest honor and privilege to have been your president.”
As Mr. Trump departed Washington, Mr. Biden and Dr. Biden traveled to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, where they attended Mass in Washington with four congressional leaders: House Speaker
(D., Calif.), Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and House Minority Leader
(R., Calif.). Mr. Biden will be the second Catholic to serve as president after President Kennedy.
The inauguration marks a shift to Democratic control in Washington, with the party holding the White House and narrow majorities in the House and the Senate. It signaled the end of Mr. Trump’s administration, one week after the House impeached him on the charge that he incited the mob of supporters who overran the Capitol. Mr. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
While Republicans participated Wednesday, tensions lingered from the fight over the election results. At an event at the Capitol, Mr. McCarthy raised the new administration, but said they had a momentous task ahead of them.
“I listened to your speech today. You talked about the tension and division, our task as leaders is to…dedicate ourselves to the values that all Americans share together,” he said.
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Mr. Trump during his four years as president signed a sweeping tax cut into law, installed conservative judges on federal courts, including three Supreme Court justices, and brokered deals between Israel and some Gulf nations to normalize diplomatic relations. He failed to deliver on some key campaign promises, such as a health-care overhaul, unsettled some world leaders by exiting from international agreements and was widely criticized for his management of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Trump is the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice—once on the charge that he encouraged the Capitol riot and once on abuse-of-power and obstruction-of-Congress charges after he pressed the Ukrainian president to pursue investigations into Mr. Biden in 2019. The Senate acquitted him on the Ukraine charges; Mr. Trump is awaiting trial for his second impeachment.
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