March 4, 2021

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Biden’s Inauguration Day: Live Updates and News – The New York Times

19 min read
The halls and grounds of the Capitol are now filled with thousands of National Guard soldiers as a precaution ahead of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration.
Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times

President Trump exits stage right this week, dethroned, denounced and, most painful to him perhaps, de-platformed.

But his unfinished business will outlast his physical presence, in the boot-falls of National Guard troops, the drumbeat of dark coronavirus news and in a proliferation of questions about his second impeachment and how his absence will change the power dynamics in the newly Democratic-controlled Washington.

As inauguration week dawned, one set of worries dissipated, while others intensified: The feared mobs engulfing state capitals on Sunday did not materialize.

But anxieties flared dramatically at around 10:15 a.m. Eastern on Monday when a lockdown order was issued after a small fire broke out at a homeless encampment near the Capitol grounds, illustrating both the long-term societal problems, and short-term logistical challenges, faced by the incoming administration.

Despite the presence of thousands of National Guard troops in Washington, there was a jolt of panic, with cellphone footage showing workers evacuating the site of a run-through of Inauguration Day plans on the side of the Capitol, as brown smoke rose into blue sky beyond the dome.

Lawmakers are set to return to a militarized Capitol this week, with a number of serious questions remaining about the course of Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial, and the future of a new Democratic-controlled Senate that will be quickly tested during confirmation hearings for five of Mr. Biden’s cabinet appointees.

For several lawmakers, it will be their first trip back to Washington since the joint session on Jan. 6 where they were temporarily forced to flee the chambers as a mob stormed the Capitol.

It remains unclear when Speaker Nancy Pelosi will formally send to the Senate the article of impeachment charging President Trump with “incitement of insurrection.” Once the House sends the article to the Senate, the chamber has to immediately move to begin the trial.

Three new Democratic senators — Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the two newly elected senators from Georgia, and Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state who set to replace Vice President-elect Kamala Harris — could be sworn in as early as this week, cementing a majority enabled by Ms. Harris’ tiebreaking vote.

On Sunday, Representative Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat who will lead the prosecution of Mr. Trump in the Senate trial, and Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, declined to offer details about when the impeachment article against Mr. Trump would be brought to the Senate or whether Democrats would push to call witnesses in the trial.

Mr. Biden has said he hopes the Senate can pursue a dual walk-and-chew-gum strategy that would allow the chamber to hold an impeachment trial while also processing both his administration nominations and pandemic relief legislation, although that would most likely require consent from both parties.

But there is one area, potentially, where there will be less drama and more certainty.

The Democrats’ control of the Senate takes away some, if not all, of the fretting for the Biden team over the confirmation of appointments. Senators are scheduled to begin initial confirmation hearings this week for a number of Mr. Biden’s cabinet nominees.

To do so, they will file past a phalanx of heavily armed National Guard troops, some standing at the ready to protect, others sleeping in cots in their new marble barracks.

President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, spoke to Trump supporters before rioters sieged the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Credit…Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, will not be taking part in the president’s defense in the Senate trial for his second impeachment, a person close to Mr. Trump said on Monday.

Mr. Trump met with Mr. Giuliani on Saturday night at the White House, and the next day the president began telling people that Mr. Giuliani was not going to be part of the team. It is unclear who will be the defense lawyer for Mr. Trump, given that many attorneys have privately said they won’t represent him.

Mr. Giuliani himself at first said he was taking part in the trial and then a day later said he had no involvement.

He told ABC News on Sunday that he would not be part of the defense, noting that he is a potential witness since he gave a speech at the rally on Jan. 6 of Trump supporters who went on to storm the Capitol complex, overtaking it for hours.

Yet a day earlier, Mr. Giuliani told ABC News that he would in fact be involved in the impeachment defense, and left open the possibility of Mr. Trump showing up for the trial. That interview infuriated Trump advisers and was a bridge too far for the president himself, according to the person close to the president, who described personal conversations on condition of anonymity.

While the president has a decades-long relationship with Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s advisers blame him for the events surrounding both of the impeachments that the president has faced.

A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp’s planned Keystone XL oil pipeline in Gascoyne, N.D., in 2017.
Credit…Terray Sylvester/Reuters

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit on his first day in office, quickly reversing his predecessor’s approval of a project to move oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, according to a person familiar with Mr. Biden’s plans for his first days in office.

Environmentalists have long targeted the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline as both a contributor to climate change and a physical symbol of the country’s unwillingness to move away from an oil-based economy. Many Republicans, including President Trump, argued the pipeline would create jobs and help local economies.

In late-2015, former President Barack Obama rejected the permit for the project, arguing it would undermine American leadership on the transition to sustainable fuels. Mr. Trump’s administration reversed that decision in early 2017, giving a green light for construction of the project to begin.

Construction has hit other economic and legal roadblocks since then, but environmentalists were pleased when Mr. Biden said during the presidential campaign that he intended to once again cancel the permit.

That is expected to happen on Jan. 20, amid a flurry of other executive actions that Mr. Biden plans to take to demonstrate his determination to reverse Mr. Trump’s legacy. Ending the Keystone project would send just such a signal.

Had it been completed, the pipeline was designed to take as much as 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian and North Dakota crude to refineries in Texas and Louisiana for processing into oil that could be exported overseas or used to enhance domestic supplies.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. speaking in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to start his administration with dozens of executive directives on top of expansive legislative proposals in a 10-day blitz meant to signal a turning point for a nation reeling from disease, economic turmoil, racial strife and now the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol.

Mr. Biden’s team has developed a raft of decrees that he can issue on his own authority after the inauguration on Wednesday to begin reversing some of President Trump’s most hotly disputed policies. Advisers hope the flurry of action, without waiting for Congress, will establish a sense of momentum for the new president even as the Senate puts his predecessor on trial.

On his first day in office alone, Mr. Biden intends a flurry of executive orders that will be partly substantive and partly symbolic. They include rescinding the travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries; rejoining the Paris climate change accord; extending pandemic-related limits on evictions and student loan payments; issuing a mask mandate for federal property and interstate travel; and ordering agencies to figure out how to reunite children separated from their families after crossing the border, according to a memo circulated on Saturday by Ron Klain, his incoming White House chief of staff, and obtained by The New York Times.

The blueprint of executive action comes after Mr. Biden announced that he will push Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion package of economic stimulus and pandemic relief, signaling a willingness to be aggressive on policy issues and confronting Republicans from the start to take their lead from him.

He also plans to send sweeping immigration legislation on his first day in office, providing a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people living in the country illegally. Along with his promise to vaccinate 100 million Americans for the coronavirus in his first 100 days, it is an expansive set of priorities for a new president that could be a defining test of his deal-making abilities and command of the federal government.

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri sitting in the House Chamber before a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.
Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Regnery Publishing, a conservative publishing house, said Monday that it had picked up a book by Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, after Simon & Schuster ended its contract to publish it in the wake of assault on the Capitol.

Mr. Hawley had come under criticism for challenging the results of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory and was accused of helping incite the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. His book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” is scheduled to be published this spring, Regnery said.

Thomas Spence, the president and publisher of Regnery, said in a statement that the publishing house was proud to stand with Mr. Hawley. “The warning in his book about censorship obviously couldn’t be more urgent,” Mr. Spence said. His company’s statement said that Simon & Schuster had made Mr. Hawley a victim of cancel culture.

Most major publishers, including Simon & Schuster, one of the “Big Five” book publishers in the United States, publish books across the political spectrum. But Simon & Schuster said it called off its plan to publish Mr. Hawley’s book after the Capitol siege.

“As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: At the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat,” Simon & Schuster said in a statement. The company declined to comment on Regnery’s accusations.

After his book was dropped, Mr. Hawley described it as “Orwellian.”

“Simon & Schuster is canceling my contract because I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition,” he wrote in a post.

In recent years, Regnery’s best-selling authors have included Ann Coulter, the conservative pundit, and Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas. Mr. Hawley’s book is about technology corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon and their political influence.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden, left, and daughter Ashley Biden, right, volunteering during a National Day of Service at Philabundance in Philadelphia on Monday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Two days ahead of his inauguration, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. spent about 45 minutes on Monday morning volunteering at a Philadelphia food bank to mark the national day of service and Martin Luther King’s Birthday.

Mr. Biden worked a conveyor belt assembling food boxes at Philabundance, an organization founded in 1984 which distributes food to pantries and emergency shelters across nine counties in Pennsylvania, according to Mr. Biden’s transition team.

Wearing a black face mask, a Philabundance baseball cap and his trademark aviator sunglasses, Mr. Biden placed canned goods, two at a time, into each food box. And Jill Biden, who will become first lady on Wednesday, added packages of rice to the boxes while disco music played over loudspeakers.

Mr. Biden’s participation at the food bank was part of several days of inauguration activities which will lead up to his swearing-in at just after noon on Wednesday. Mr. Biden is expected to arrive in Washington on Tuesday.

His first stop, according to officials with the presidential inaugural committee, will be at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, where he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their spouses will participate in an event featuring 400 lights marking the lives lost because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Biden’s decision to volunteer at the food bank on Monday was consistent with many of his predecessors in both parties who frequently engaged in a public service event on the holiday. Mr. Trump largely ignored the service component of the holiday. In 2018, he drew criticism for going to play golf instead.

Mr. Trump’s public schedule for Monday indicated, as it has on most days for the last several weeks, that he planned to “work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaking in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is now officially the former United States senator from California, after resigning from her seat on Monday, two days before her swearing-in as the No. 2 official in the executive branch.

“Today, as I resign from the Senate, I am preparing to take an oath that would have me preside over it,” Ms. Harris wrote in a farewell post to the citizens of her state before handing in her resignation paperwork on Monday and heading to a food bank, Martha’s Table, with her husband to fill bags of food for neighbors.

“As Senator-turned-Vice-President Walter Mondale once pointed out, the vice presidency is the only office in our government that ‘belongs to both the executive branch and the legislative branch.’ A responsibility made greater with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate,” she added.

During this time of national crisis and political rancor, Ms. Harris is transitioning into a far more important role in the upper chamber than she ever occupied as a representative of California — she has the tiebreaking vote in a Democrat-controlled Senate deadlocked at 50-50 with Republicans.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a fellow Democrat, will appoint a successor to Ms. Harris, who was elected in 2016. Mr. Newsom said last month that he intended to tap Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, for the seat. Mr. Padilla’s Senate term will expire in 2022, and he could seek re-election.

Ms. Harris continued to attend Senate sessions after her November election, and was in the Capitol for the certification of the election results this month when the building was stormed by a violent mob of Trump supporters.

Ms. Harris will be sworn in as vice president on Wednesday by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a ceremony in which the first woman of color to become vice president will take her oath from the first woman of color to sit on the Supreme Court.

Ms. Harris chose Justice Sotomayor for the task, according to a Harris aide who was confirming a report by ABC News. The vice president-elect and Justice Sotomayor have a shared background as former prosecutors. And Ms. Harris has called the justice a figure of national inspiration.

“Judge Sonia Sotomayor has fought for the voices of the people ever since her first case voting against corporations in Citizens United,” Ms. Harris wrote on Twitter in 2019. “As a critical voice on the bench, she’s showing all our children what’s possible.”

Justice Sotomayor, who was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 2009, swore in Joseph R. Biden Jr. for his second term as vice president in January 2013 (first in a private ceremony and again in public the next day because of a quirk of the calendar).

Members of the Oath Keepers are seen among supporters of President Trump at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Credit…Jim Bourg/Reuters

The Justice Department has charged suspected members of the Three Percenters, a militia group that emerged some years ago from the extremist wing of the gun-rights movement, and of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group founded by law enforcement and military veterans, as it works to determine whether the extremist groups conspired to attack Congress.

The charges include unlawful entry, assault on a federal officer, disorderly conduct, destruction of federal property, obstruction of an official proceeding and obstruction of justice.

On Sunday evening, Donovan Crowl, 50, a former U.S. Marine, and Jessica Watkins, 38, an Army veteran, turned themselves in to authorities in Ohio after they published photos of themselves on social media wearing combat gear and saying that they had stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in order to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The F.B.I. said that Ms. Watkins’s group is a unit of the Oath Keepers and that she and Mr. Crowl were wearing Oath Keepers patches.

The recent arrests of veterans and former law enforcement underscore the Justice Department’s worry that some of the attackers may have been part of more coordinated efforts to attack Congress and that they employed specialized skills in the assault. Videos and photos have revealed chilling scenes of rioters in tactical gear weaving through the mobs inside the Capitol in tight formation, wearing tactical gear, carrying restraints, and using hand signals to communicate.

Michael R. Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, said on Friday that his prosecutors were working to build more serious sedition and murder cases against such groups if the evidence permits, and that focusing on militia members and other extremists would be a top priority.

“All of these extremist groups are being looked at in terms of their participation at the Capitol,” Mr. Sherwin said.

Federal prosecutors also unsealed charges this weekend against Robert Gieswein, 24, of Woodland Park, Colo., who they say is affiliated with the Three Percenters. The group’s name is a reference to the purported three percent of the U.S. colonial population who rose up to fight against the British army.

Mr. Gieswein, who runs a private paramilitary training group called the Woodland Wild Dogs, was among the early wave of invaders to breach the building, court papers say. Photographs from the attack show him clad in a military vest, goggles and an Army-style helmet, wrestling with Capitol Police officers to remove metal barricades and brandishing a baseball bat. In a criminal complaint, prosecutors cite a video that shows Mr. Gieswein encouraging other rioters as they smash a window at the Capitol with a wooden board and a plastic shield, and then climbing through the broken glass into the building.

The F.B.I. also arrested Guy Wesley Reffitt of Texas and charged him on Saturday with obstruction. The F.B.I. said he belonged to the Texas Freedom Force, a militia extremist group, while Mr. Reffitt’s wife said he was a member of the Three Percenters.

The deadly assault on the Capitol is expected to be a “significant driver of violence” for armed militia groups and racist extremists in the days ahead, federal authorities have said in recently issued intelligence bulletins.

Members of the National Guard walking outside the Capitol in Washington on Sunday.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The last weekend of the Trump presidency wound down with state capitols across the nation ringed by barricades, military vehicles guarding closed-off streets and Washington, D.C., all but shut down. In the end, it was for a handful of protesters, most from the right, a few from the left, many looking more like ragtag stragglers than the furious mob of Trump supporters that ransacked the U.S. Capitol more than a week ago.

In Concord, N.H., five masked men dressed in tactical gear and carrying assault rifles gathered on the sidewalk in front of the statehouse lawn to express concerns about “government overreach.” In Lansing, Mich., National Guard soldiers watched as a dozen members of the far-right Boogaloo Bois group showed up with military-style weapons.

Across the country, legislative chambers — the people’s houses — became citadels. At least 17 states called up their National Guard.

In Washington, 15,000 troops, more than the nation has stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, established a Green Zone, adding to the impression of an occupied city. The National Guard said the troops came from all 50 states and three territories, a force that could grow to 25,000 by Wednesday.

The large presence of troops and police officers across the country came after warnings from the F.B.I. that armed protests were planned in all 50 capitals and following online chatter promising demonstrations or worse in the days leading up to Wednesday’s inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as president.

The nation’s militarized streets on Sunday were a remarkable spectacle as police and National Guard officers faced off with promised right-wing protests that, at least on Sunday, were reduced to a whimper. Protesters in some states could be counted on one hand.

At the Massachusetts State House, where hundreds of police officers deployed around the perimeter, a pedestrian shouted, “What’s going on?”

“Maybe a demonstration, maybe not,” an officer responded.

But officials say they will remain on alert through Wednesday’s inauguration.

Joe Pillizzi, a 67-year-old retired salesman in Kenosha, Wis., who supports President Trump, said he believed the summer’s looting and rioting had “put a seed” in the minds of the mob that attacked the Capitol.
Credit…Lauren Justice for The New York Times

Immediately after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, all corners of the political spectrum repudiated the mob of President Trump’s supporters. Yet within days, prominent Republicans, party officials, conservative media voices and rank-and-file voters began making a rhetorical shift to try to downplay the group’s violent actions.

In one of the ultimate don’t-believe-your-eyes moments of the Trump era, these Republicans have retreated to the ranks of misinformation, claiming it was Black Lives Matter protesters and far-left groups like antifa who stormed the Capitol — in spite of the pro-Trump flags and QAnon symbology in the crowd. Others have argued that the attack was no worse than the rioting and looting in cities during the Black Lives Matter movement, often exaggerating the unrest last summer while minimizing a mob’s attempt to overturn an election.

The shift is revealing about how conspiracy theories, deflection and political incentives play off one another in Mr. Trump’s G.O.P. For a brief time, Republican officials seemed perhaps open to grappling with what their party’s leader had wrought — violence in the name of their Electoral College fight. But any window of reflection now seems to be closing as Republicans try to pass blame and to compare last summer’s lawlessness, which was condemned by Democrats, to an attack on Congress, which was inspired by Mr. Trump.

“The violence at the Capitol was shameful,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, tweeted at 6:55 a.m. the morning after the attack. “Our movement values respect for law and order and for the police.” But now, in a new video titled “What Really Happened on January 6th?” Mr. Giuliani is among those who are back to emphasizing conspiracy theories.

“The riot was preplanned,” said Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City. “This was an attempt to slander Trump.” He added, “The evidence is coming out.”

Suzanne Doherty, 67, who traveled from Michigan to be in Washington on Jan. 6 to support Mr. Trump, came away feeling confused and depressed over the invasion of the Capitol and not trusting the images of the mob.

“I heard that on antifa websites, people were invited to go to the rally and dress up like Trump supporters, but I’m not sure what to believe anymore,” she said. “There were people there only to wreak havoc. All I know is that there was a whole gamut of people there, but the rioters were not us. Maybe they were antifa. Maybe they were B.L.M. Maybe they were extreme right militants.”

The conjecture that the mob was infiltrated by Black Lives Matter and antifa has been metastasizing from the dark corners of the pro-Trump internet to the floors of Congress and the Republican base, even as law enforcement officials say there is no evidence to support it. The authorities are now flagging threats of violence and rioting leading up to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration.

That has not stopped Republican lawmakers and some of their constituents from pushing these narratives to defend Mr. Trump.

Members of the Park Police patrolling the Lincoln Memorial last week. 
Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who ran on a platform of addressing the pandemic with competence and compassion, will preside over a national memorial honoring the nearly 400,000 people who have died of the coronavirus shortly after arriving in Washington on Tuesday, his inaugural committee said Monday.

Mr. Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their families plan to participate in the lighting of 400 lights to illuminate the perimeter of the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial in their first stop in the city ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration, the committee said.

Each light is meant to represent approximately 1,000 Americans who will have perished related to the virus at the time of his swearing-in.

Tuesday’s ceremony will kick off “a national moment of unity” at 5:30 p.m. Eastern that will include similar memorials at the Empire State Building, the Space Needle in Seattle and other landmarks across the country, with events also planned for Mr. Biden’s hometowns of Scranton, Penn., and Wilmington, Del.

The inauguration “represents the beginning of a new national journey — one that renews its commitment to honor its fallen and rise toward greater heights in their honor,” the committee’s chief executive, Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University, said in a statement.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, will deliver the invocation at the Lincoln Memorial event. Two acclaimed gospel singers, Yolanda Adams and Lori Marie Key, will perform at the commemoration.

In recent days, the committee’s staff has reached out to church and civic leaders around the country to participate in the memorial, with a particular focus on involving Black and Latino communities, which have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic.

On Sunday, Ron Klain, the incoming White House chief of staff, had a dire forecast for the course of the coronavirus outbreak in the new administration’s first weeks, predicting that half a million Americans will have died from the coronavirus by the end of February. The current death toll is nearing 400,000 and on Monday, the United States surpassed 24 million cases of the virus.

“The virus is going to get worse before it gets better,” Mr. Klain said in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “People who are contracting the virus today will start to get sick next month, will add to the death toll in late February, even March, so it’s going to take awhile to turn this around.”

On Friday, federal health officials warned of a fast spreading, far more contagious variant of the virus that is projected to become the dominant source of infection in the country by March, potentially fueling another wrenching surge of cases and deaths.

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