Biden's Inauguration Week begins as DC security intensifies

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 10:33 a.m. ET, January 19, 2021
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1:55 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Country singer Garth Brooks will perform at Biden's inauguration

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

Kevin Mazur/BBMA2020/Getty Images/FILE
Kevin Mazur/BBMA2020/Getty Images/FILE

The inaugural committee announced Monday that country singer Garth Brooks has accepted the Biden’s invitation to perform at the inauguration. The committee indicated that Brooks will be part of the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol. 

"This is not a political statement," Brooks told reporters on a media call during the announcement. "This is a statement of unity." 

Jill Biden called Brooks on the phone to invite him to perform. "She’s very warming, very welcoming," Brooks said of his conversation with Jill. "She's very easy to talk to, and just said, 'it's your decision but we would love to have you here.'" 

Brooks stressed that he looks forward to participating because he strongly believes in the unity theme, particularly at a time when the country is so divided. 

"It’s not Republican or Democrat. It’s a leader for whom I am the civilian of the greatest country on the planet. Our job is to work as hard as we can for all of us to have a better future than we had before," he said.  

"We can't start living until we rise above the narrows of our own individualistic concerns," he added, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Brooks also performed at President Obama’s inauguration in 2008. He said has performed for every administration in some capacity since President Jimmy Carter, except for President Ronald Reagan. "This is an honor for me to serve," he stressed. 

He did not indicate which songs he will perform, only saying:

"There are plenty of songs of love and unity that you can choose from, from the greatest writers, you know, around the world. Because we're all humans, we live within the borders of United States but the truth is the message that goes out, goes out to all of us around the world." 

Asked to compare the level of nerves he anticipates to feel during this performance and how it would rank on a list of getting "butterflies,” Brooks said, "It's gonna rank really high on the butterfly list." 

1:35 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Harris releases video thanking California after resigning from her Senate seat

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris released a video on Twitter, expressing thanks to the state of California as she resigned from her Senate seat today.

Sitting in front of a framed photo of her and President-elect Joe Biden, Harris repeated many of the same lines she wrote today in her op-ed announcing her resignation.

“It has been such an honor to serve with a team that has worked so tirelessly,” Harris said. She went through a summarization of things achieved in her four years of office both responding to Californians needs directly and bipartisan work aimed at servicing the nation.

“These are some of the things that we have done over the course of my four years and you gave me the honor of being able to serve,” she said.

“Of course, I'm not saying goodbye. In many ways, I'm now saying hello as your vice president,” Harris said. “But I do want to thank you, for the honor of representing the place of my birth, as a proud Daughter of California. Thank you.”

Watch her message:

1:25 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

FBI arrest New York resident who allegedly live-streamed Capitol riots 

From CNN's Lauren del Valle

Nicolas Moncada, charged in the Eastern District of New York, posted a photo of himself within what appears to be the Capitol building, according to court documents.
Nicolas Moncada, charged in the Eastern District of New York, posted a photo of himself within what appears to be the Capitol building, according to court documents. Eastern District of New York

Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agents arrested Nicolas Moncada on Monday morning for his role in the riot and assault of the Capitol building Jan. 6, officials announced.  

The former Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) student was positively identified by former faculty and students via his Instagram and Twitter posts chronicling the Capitol riots from what appears to be inside the building, according to court documents. 

FIT faculty and students reported the information to the school's Office of Public Safety which reported the social media accounts to federal authorities, the court document says. 

In the comments of one alleged video Moncada wrote he was "storming the Capitol Building." In another alleged selfie posted during the riots, Moncada claimed to be nearby House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, according to a statement of facts written by an FBI counter-terrorism special agent. 

Moncada will appear virtually in front of a magistrate judge within the Eastern District of New York Tuesday. A time for the hearing has not been set.

Moncada violated laws prohibiting the unlawful entry to the Capitol and violent entry, disorderly conduct and demonstration at the Capitol building, according to the court document.

12:57 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Trump expected to issue around 100 pardons and commutations on his final day in office, sources say

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond, Kevin Liptak, Jamie Gangel, Pamela Brown and Kaitlan Collins

The entrance to the West Wing is seen with a Marine standing guard, indicating President Trump was in the Oval Office at the White House on Monday, January 18, in Washington, D.C.
The entrance to the West Wing is seen with a Marine standing guard, indicating President Trump was in the Oval Office at the White House on Monday, January 18, in Washington, D.C. Leigh Vogel/Pool/Sipa USA

President Trump is preparing to issue around 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, according to three people familiar with the matter. It will be a major batch of clemency actions that include white collar criminals, high-profile rappers and others but — as of now — is not expected to include Trump himself.

The White House held a meeting on Sunday to finalize the list of pardons, two sources said.

Trump, who had been rolling out pardons and commutations at a steady clip ahead of Christmas, had put a pause on them in the days leading up to and directly after the Jan. 6 riots at the US Capitol, according to officials.

Aides said Trump was singularly focused on the Electoral College count in the days ahead of time, precluding him for making final decisions on pardons. White House officials had expected them to resume after Jan. 6, but Trump retreated after he was blamed for inciting the riots.

Initially, two major batches had been ready to roll out, one at the end of last week and one on Tuesday. Now, officials expect the last batch to be the only one — unless Trump decides at the last minute to grant pardons to controversial allies, members of his family or himself.

The final batch of clemency actions is expected to include a mix of criminal justice reform-minded pardons and more controversial ones secured or doled out to political allies.

Some background: The pardons are one of several items Trump must complete before his presidency ends. White House officials also still have executive orders prepared, and the President is still hopeful to declassify information related to the Russia probe before he leaves office.

But with a waning number of administration officials still in jobs, the likelihood that any of it gets done seemed to be shrinking.

The Jan. 6 riots that led to Trump's second impeachment have complicated his desire to pardon himself, his kids and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. At this point, aides do not think he will do so, but caution only Trump knows what he will do with his last bit of presidential power before he is officially out of office at noon on Jan. 20.

11:37 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

US Capitol police give the all clear after building put on lockdown due to fire several blocks away

From CNN's Ali Zaslav

In an alert released moments ago the US Capitol Police have instructed the complex to "return to normal operations."

"All buildings within the Capitol Complex: The USCP has cleared the external security threat incident located under the bridge on I-295 at First and F Streets SE. All checkpoints have reopened. Return to normal operations," the Capitol Police notice reads. 

A small fire at an apparent homeless encampment less than a mile away from the US Capitol Building on Monday prompted the building to enter lockdown, a reflection of the heightened state of alarm at the complex.

12:20 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

New Radicals reuniting to perform hit "You Get What You Give" at inaugural parade

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty Images
Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty Images

The band “New Radicals” will reunite for the first time in 22 years to perform a song with a personal connection to President-elect Joe Biden’s family during the virtual inaugural parade on Wednesday.

The group will perform their 1998 hit “You Get What You Give” as the part of the virtual “Parade Across America” taking place after Biden's swearing-in ceremony. In her eulogy of Beau Biden in 2015, Ashley Biden, the President-elect’s daughter, described the tune as a “theme song” for Beau, who often played it for her while he was battling brain cancer.

“In retrospect, I think Beau played that song during our mornings together – not for him, but for me,” she said. “To remember to not give up or let sadness consume me, consume us.”

“Performing the song again after such a long time is a huge honor because we all have deep respect for Beau’s military service and such high hopes for the unity and normalcy Joe and Kamala will bring our country again in this time of crisis,” Gregg Alexander, frontman of the New Radicals, said.

Doug Emhoff, the future second gentleman, also used the song as his walk-up song during the presidential campaign.

The virtual parade taking place Wednesday afternoon will be hosted by actor Tony Goldwyn and will feature appearances by Jon Stewart; DJ Cassidy’s Pass the Mic, including Earth Wind and Fire, Nile Rodgers and Kathy Sledge; and others.

The President-elect will also receive a presidential escort from 15th Street to the White House, which will feature performances from drumlines from Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ alma maters – the University of Delaware and Howard University, respectively. Every branch of the military will also be represented in the presidential escort.

11:28 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

UN Human Rights experts condemn violent attacks at US Capitol

From CNN's Richard Roth

United Nations Human Rights experts released a statement Monday "condemning the violent events at the US Capitol in Washington," on Jan. 6.

"The violent attempt to overturn the results of a free and fair election at the US Capitol on 6 January was a shocking and incendiary event," the statement said in part.

"We strongly condemn the attack and the incitement to violence and hatred online and offline, and call for accountability," it continued. 

The leaders went on to say they stand with the democratic outcomes of the recent elections, and urged political leaders to "do everything in their power to de-escalate tensions and unify the country in full respect for democracy and the rule of law." 

Separately they urged the government, private sector, and other groups to ensure responses are consistent with human rights standards including "freedom of expression and due process of the law."

"We maintain our hope that the US democracy will emerge strengthened from this crisis without damage to its institutions and with renewed commitment to peaceful pluralism, rule of law and democratic governance," it said.

12:17 p.m. ET, January 18, 2021

In Senate resignation letter, Harris thanks people of California for "honor of serving them"

From CNN’s Jasmine Wright

Then-Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at a hearing of the Homeland Security Committee on June 25 in Washington.
Then-Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at a hearing of the Homeland Security Committee on June 25 in Washington. Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images

CNN has obtained a copy of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ resignation letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, from a Harris aide.

Harris officially submitted her resignation letter this morning as she prepares to take office Wednesday. Harris will make make history as the first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president of the US.

Read the letter:

Dear Governor Newsom:
I hereby resign as Senator from the State of California, effective January 18th, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. EST. As I assume my duties as Vice President of the United States, I would like to thank the people of California for the honor of serving them in the U.S. Senate over the past four years.
 Kamala D. Harris
United States Senator
11:13 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Security will be scaled back at Trump Tower in New York City

From CNN's Brynn Gingras and Taylor Romine

Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images
Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

Once a fortress, security in and around Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue will begin to loosen, possibly as early as this week. 

According to a New York Police Department official, police presence will be scaled down once Trump leaves office Jan. 20.  

Streets around the high rise that have been blocked since Trump became President will likely be reopened and barricades are expected to be removed, according to the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity as plans are still being coordinated with the US Secret Service, and other federal authorities.  

A communications center inside Trump Tower will no longer be needed and dismantled, the official added.

Trump Tower has had an increased security presence since Trump won the Republican presidential nomination in the summer of 2016 as it served as the President’s main office and residence, the official said. 

Since the November 2020 election, it’s been the target of protests including in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, with Black Lives Matter activists and Trump supporters alike. 

When asked about changes in security, NYPD spokesperson Detective Denise Moroney said that they will continue to have a "robust presence" at Trump-affiliated locations, including Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. After the inauguration, the department will reevaluate its security presence, she said.