The inauguration of Joe Biden

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 12:42 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021
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7:51 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

White House press secretary: "Rebuilding trust with the American people will be central to our focus"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury and Betsy Klein 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during her first press briefing at the White House on Wednesday, January 20.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during her first press briefing at the White House on Wednesday, January 20. Evan Vucci/AP

White House press secretary Jen Psaki held the first news briefing for the Biden administration and said that when she was asked to serve in her new role, President Joe Biden discussed the importance of bringing back "truth and transparency" to the briefing room.

"He asked me to ensure we're communicating about the policies across the Biden-Harris administration and the work his team is doing every day on behalf of all American people. There will be times when we see things differently in this room. I mean, among all of us. That's okay. That's part of our democracy. And rebuilding trust with the American people will be central to our focus in the press office and in the White House. Every single day," Psaki said.

This is the first White House press briefing since Dec. 15, with the exception of a statement from former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Jan. 7, where she did not take any questions. McEnany appeared behind the briefing room podium approximately 40 times in her tenure, which began in April. 

Psaki later said she has “deep respect” for the role of a free and independent press. Psaki said Biden works for the American people, and therefore she does, as well.

She went on to outline the President’s activities and executive actions.

Watch the first news briefing of the Biden administration:

7:17 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Trump's White House chief usher has been fired

From CNN's Kate Bennett

White House chief usher Timothy Harleth has been fired by the Bidens, two sources with knowledge confirm to CNN.

Harleth was hired by Melania Trump in 2017 to fill the role of chief usher. Harleth came to the White House from Trump International Hotel DC, where he was rooms manager.

Harleth took the place of Angella Reid, who was hired during the Obama administration. 

Chief ushers can stay through multiple administrations, however Harleth’s firing did not come as a surprise to several sources inside the White House.

CNN has reached out to the first lady's office for comment.

7:12 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Senate confirms Avril Haines to be director of national intelligence

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Avril Haines speaks during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee to be President-elect Joe Biden’s national intelligence director on January 19 in Washington.
Avril Haines speaks during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee to be President-elect Joe Biden’s national intelligence director on January 19 in Washington. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s first Cabinet nominee Wednesday evening, voting to approve his pick for director of national intelligence on Biden’s first day in office. The vote was 84 to 10.

Haines’ day-one confirmation was in doubt for much of Wednesday, after Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas objected to her confirmation until he received a written response to clarify one of her answers during her Tuesday confirmation hearing. Once Cotton received the response, he went to the floor and lifted his hold. Haines will become the first woman to serve as director of national intelligence, taking over an intelligence community that has been repeatedly disparaged and sidelined by former President Trump throughout his four years in office. 

Haines’ confirmation continues a recent Senate precedent of confirming Cabinet nominees the day a new President is sworn in, though Biden is getting fewer nominees than his predecessors. The Senate confirmed two of Trump’s on his first day, and even more for former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

Biden may also struggle to get additional nominees confirmed quickly, as those confirmations could be stalled until Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer cut a deal on a resolution outlining how they'll share power in the Senate, GOP and Democratic senators said Wednesday.

In addition to Haines, Janet Yellen to the Treasury Department is another nominee likely to get a quick vote in the Senate, but there still needs to be an agreement to hold votes on the nominations. It remains to be seen when other nominees might be considered.

7:08 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden administration holds first White House press briefing

Reporters wait for White House press secretary Jen Psaki to hold the Biden administration's first press briefing in Washington on Wednesday.
Reporters wait for White House press secretary Jen Psaki to hold the Biden administration's first press briefing in Washington on Wednesday. Source: CNN

White House press secretary Jen Psaki is holding the Biden administration's first press briefing.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have an all-female White House senior communications team.

Psaki, a former CNN political commentator, was also a State Department spokesperson during the Obama administration, and previously served as deputy White House communications director and deputy White House press secretary.

She has worked on three presidential campaigns, including as traveling press secretary for the 2008 Obama-Biden campaign and traveling press secretary and senior adviser for the 2012 campaign, and as deputy press secretary for John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.

Kate Bedingfield, who served as deputy campaign manager and communications director for the campaign, will be White House communications director.

Here's a look at the events that will come next:

  • 8:48 p.m. ET: Biden and Harris deliver remarks at the “Celebrating America” inaugural program.
  • 9:55 p.m. ET: Biden and the first lady Jill Biden will appear on the White House's Blue Room balcony.

7:00 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

The Bidens are staying in the White House residence tonight

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

While this may seem obvious by now, given that President Joe Biden is already at work inside several rooms of the White House, but the Bidens do plan to spend their first night in office in the White House residence, an official tells CNN.

There had been some questions about how long it might take to clean the residence, given the vastly different protocols surrounding how the Trump and Biden administrations deal with coronavirus and the apparent hotspot the White House had become over the last several months.

But an official says tonight, the White House professional staff – and outside crews – cleaned the building thoroughly and the Bidens will spend tonight in the residence.

7:01 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Bipartisan group of senators expected to meet with Biden's economic adviser this weekend

From CNN's Lauren Fox

A group of eight Democrats and eight Republicans will meet with Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese in upcoming days as a way to foster a conversation about working across the aisle on some of President Joe Biden’s legislative and economic goals, a source familiar with the meeting told CNN.

The exact day of this conversation is not yet finalized. 

The group of members includes Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Mark Warner.

Manchin, from West Virginia, hinted earlier today that a bipartisan group of lawmakers would likely meet with White House officials over the weekend. 

The specific number of members was first reported by punchbowl.

6:51 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden says he's "not concerned" his Cabinet isn't confirmed yet

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden says he has no concerns that top officials in his Cabinet have yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

"No I’m not concerned," Biden said when asked about the situation at the end of an event in the State Dining Room.

"I’m confident we can move quickly," he said.

Biden entered office with no Cabinet officials confirmed by the Senate, forcing his administration to name acting agency heads.

Five of Biden's Cabinet nominees participated in Senate confirmation hearings on Tuesday. They are...

  • Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department
  • Avril Haines, Biden's choice to lead the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary designate for the Department of Homeland Security
  • Antony Blinken to lead to State Department
  • Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin for Secretary of Defense

6:49 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Canada's Trudeau says he's "disappointed" by Biden's Keystone XL decision

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens during a news conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Ontario, on Tuesday, January 5.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens during a news conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Ontario, on Tuesday, January 5. David Kawai/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is "disappointed" to see President Joe Biden sign an executive order revoking the Keystone XL oil pipeline's permit. 

“Earlier today, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States of America. While we welcome the President's commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the President’s decision to fulfil his election campaign promise on Keystone XL," Trudeau said in a statement today. “I spoke directly with President Biden about the project last November, and Ambassador Hillman and others in our government made the case to high-level officials in the incoming administration."

Trudeau added: “Workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and across Canada will always have our support. Canada is the single-largest supplier of energy to the United States, contributing to U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness, and supporting thousands of jobs on both sides of the border."

Some context: Keystone XL has been a political football between climate activists and the oil industry. The planned pipeline would carry oil from the tar sands of Canada into the United States.

7:50 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden swears in presidential appointees in virtual White House ceremony

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Joe Biden just swore in presidential appointees from the White House in a virtual ceremony.

"We're one team," Biden told the appointees. "We have an obligation, but we also have a great privilege. Very few times does an individual get to do something that can fundamentally positively impact other people's lives, not only here but around the world."

Biden told the administration staffers they shouldn't be working for him unless they were serious about forcing change.

"We have a chance to change things. That's the reason I got involved in politics," he said. "I really mean it. So you shouldn't be doing this unless you feel it."

Biden also told his team they were "engaged in and working with the most decent government in the world" and that he was counting on them to help "restore the soul of this country."

"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 faith in you. And so we have an obligation," Biden continued.

Biden ticked through some of his upcoming challenges, calling efforts to distribute the coronavirus vaccine the most "consequential" logistical challenge in US history.

He said Americans' "blinders" had been lowered when it came to systemic racism, and cited specifically the death of George Floyd in saying racial justice needed to come to America.

Biden said the US "can meet this existential threat" of climate change, and cited a past conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping by saying his definition for the country was the single word: "possibility."

The President signed his first round of executive actions a bit ago, including an order requiring masks on federal property, one meant to ensure racial equality and another rejoining the Paris climate accord.

Here's a look at the events that will come next:

  • 7 p.m. ET: White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds the first press briefing.
  • 8:48 p.m. ET: Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris deliver remarks at the “Celebrating America” inaugural program.
  • 9:55 p.m. ET: Biden and the first lady will appear on the White House's Blue Room balcony.

Watch the moment: