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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10:39 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Inaugural parade will feature drumlines from Biden and Harris’ alma maters

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced that President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ alma maters, University of Delaware and Howard University, will be represented at the inauguration Wednesday with both schools’ drumlines scheduled to perform live from Washington, according to a press release.

They will escort Biden and Harris from 15th St. to the White House and help kick off the “Parade Across America” with live performances.

According to the release, the parade will begin at 3:15 p.m. ET and feature "diverse, dynamic performances in communities in all 56 states and territories, celebrate America’s heroes, and highlight the diversity, heritage, and resilience of the country."

10:40 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

These are some of the key executive actions Biden plans to sign on his first day

From CNN's Dan Merica

President-elect Joe Biden plans to sign roughly a dozen executive orders, including rejoining the Paris climate accord and ending the travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries, on his first day in office, according to a memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain.

He'll also sign orders halting evictions and student loan payments during the coronavirus pandemic and issuing a mask mandate on all federal property in an effort to either roll back moves made by the Trump administration or advance policy in a way that was impossible in the current administration.

One of Biden's most common campaign trail promises was to tackle an issue on his first day in office — a pledge he usually made to either contrast himself with President Donald Trump or highlight just how important he believed an issue to be.

These promises were made on everything from climate change to immigration to foreign policy, and many are reflected in Klain's Saturday memo, which was first reported by the New York Times.

"During the campaign, President-elect Biden pledged to take immediate action to start addressing these crises and build back better," Klain writes. "As president, he will keep those promises and sign dozens of executive orders, presidential memoranda, and directives to Cabinet agencies in fulfillment of the promises he made."

Beyond executive actions in his first days in office, the memo outlines that Biden plans to send Congress a large-scale immigration plan within his first 100 days in office. The plan would offer a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrations currently in the United States.

Biden rolled out his first legislative priority this week, announcing a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that included direct payments to Americans. Biden made clear during a speech on the plan that he wanted it to be the first issue Congress takes up after he is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

CNN's Jessica Dean reports:

10:19 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Fewer than a dozen arrests in DC associated with the inauguration so far

From CNN's Alex Marquardt

Members of the US National Guard patrol at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 17, 2021.
Members of the US National Guard patrol at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 17, 2021. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Washington, DC, reports that between the Metropolitan Police Department and the federal agencies helping to patrol the inauguration, there have been seven arrests since Friday.

Two were made by the Metro police and five by the federal agencies. CNN has reported on several of these cases individually.

The city also responded to three different reports of suspicious packages. All three were eventually cleared.

There was also a case of a National Guardsman falling ill, according to the report.

The city remains on high alert with check points and closures across a wide-ranging area two days ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

10:08 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Before leaving the White House, Melania Trump writes about the restorations she oversaw

From CNN's Kate Bennett

U.S. first lady Melania Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House November 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. 
U.S. first lady Melania Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House November 24, 2020 in Washington, DC.  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Melania Trump will be exiting the White House with the lowest favorability rating of her tenure as first lady, according to a new CNN poll.

At 47%, more people have an unfavorable view of the first lady now than at any point since CNN first asked about views of her in February 2016. The poll, conducted by SSRS for CNN, puts Trump's favorable rating at 42%, with 12% of those asked answering they are unsure of their feelings about the first lady.

Before her departure, which will see a break from tradition by her and her husband refusing to meet with the incoming President, she has written an essay on the restoration projects she oversaw while first lady.

She makes note of the Queen’s Bathroom renovation, the “President’s Elevator,” the marble flooring on the State Floor entry and outside of the East Room, and the Bowling Alley (where she had the balls redone with lettering “The President’s House,” not “The People’s House.”) She notes ongoing restoration of “priceless Zuber wallpaper in the Family Dining Room,” not yet completed.

Trump also comments on the Rose Garden renovation. 

Finally, she acknowledges the build of the now infamous White House Tennis Pavilion, a multimillion dollar, privately funded project she tweeted about more than once during the throes of the pandemic. With the exception of the new grout in the tiles on the State Floor marble, and the Rose Garden, the other projects she mentions in the essay all areas of the White House that are not accessible to the public and can only be used by the first family.


9:24 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

What we know about Trump's Wednesday departure

From CNN's Sam Fossum, Kevin Liptak, Kaitlan Collins, Jim Acosta and the White House team 

A Marine guard stands at the entrance to the West Wing of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.
A Marine guard stands at the entrance to the West Wing of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Gerald Herbert/AP

President-elect Joe Biden will officially be sworn in Wednesday, and President Trump does not plan to attend the ceremony, and instead, will leave Washington, DC, that morning.

Here's what we know so far about Trump's departure and expected splashy send-off at Joint Base Andrews:

An early morning departure: Eager for a final taste of the pomp of being president, Trump has asked for a major send-off on Inauguration Day before one last presidential flight to Palm Beach. President Trump is expected to leave from Joint Base Andrews early Wednesday morning and arrive at his Palm Beach resort by the time Biden is being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. 

Trump has told people, CNN's Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins have reported, that he dislikes the idea of leaving Washington as an ex-president and hates the thought of having to ask Biden to use the plane. 

Trump's departure aboard Marine One from the White House South Lawn will likely be visible and audible to the Bidens, who will spend the night before the inauguration at Blair House, across Pennsylvania Ave. from the executive mansion. Its use was offered to them by the State Department rather than the Trumps, who refuse to make contact with the incoming president and first lady. 

Trump and the first lady's departure from the White House South Lawn is expected to look relatively normal. Mustering a large crowd at the White House would be difficult given the intense security in Washington. 

Trump's send-off ceremony: Once Trump arrives at Joint Base Andrews we expect a military-style sendoff and a crowd of supporters. This event is expected to be like a state visit departure event, an official told CNN's Jim Acosta. Some of the pomp and circumstance under consideration for the ceremony includes a color guard, military band, 21 gun salute and red carpet.  

CNN's Kaitlan Collins reported Monday morning that President Trump's friends, allies and former administration officials have started receiving invitations to his send-off ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, according to a person familiar with the invite. 

Presidents typically hold some type event at Andrews before leaving Washington. Ex-President Obama spoke to a crowd of former staffers in a hangar in 2017.

Will there be any sort of handoff between the two men?: Trump remains undecided as to whether he will pen a letter to Biden to leave in the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, although it appears increasingly unlikely. Some of his advisers have encouraged him to think about continuing the tradition. 

Worth noting that early on in his presidency Trump enjoyed showing off the letter he received from Obama to visitors. That letter included what has become a prescient line: "Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it's up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them."

The two men are not expected to meet in person for the traditional meeting at the White House before a shared limo ride to the Capitol.

What about a farewell address?: Aides have pleaded with Trump to deliver some type of farewell address, either live or taped, that would tick through his accomplishments in office. But he has appeared disinterested and noncommittal. 

9:28 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

It's a big week in Washington. Here's what to watch for in Congress.

From CNN's Lauren Fox

The U.S Capitol Building is prepared for the inaugural ceremonies for President-elect Joe Biden as American flags are placed in the ground on the National Mall on January 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. 
The U.S Capitol Building is prepared for the inaugural ceremonies for President-elect Joe Biden as American flags are placed in the ground on the National Mall on January 18, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There are just two days left in the Trump administration, with President-elect Joe Biden scheduled to be sworn in on Wednesday.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate is preparing for Trump's second impeachment trial following the House's impeachment vote last week. And both chambers are waiting for the arrival of the Biden administration.

Here's a look at the key events and possible developments we're watching this week in Congress:

  • Confirmation hearings: There are five confirmation hearings on Tuesday for secretary of State, secretary of Treasury, CIA director, Defense secretary and secretary of Homeland Security. Aides say it is possible that the Senate could move as soon as Wednesday to confirm some of them to their posts hours after Biden is sworn in. Again, this takes agreement from all 100 senators. We should have more timing guidance Tuesday when the Senate returns.
  • A change in Senate leadership: In order for Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer to become majority leader, incoming Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both of Georgia, have to be sworn in. The state has until later this week to do that. Aides close to the process say the expectation is that certification will occur around Jan. 20, but it's normal for the senators to not be sworn in until the day after that certification occurs. That means that it may actually be a day or so until Warnock and Ossoff are sworn in. In other words, the timing is fluid. Don't assume that Schumer becomes majority leader on Jan. 20. We don't know for sure.
  • More details about how the Senate will run: Leadership has been working through how the two parties will run the next Senate. Given the narrow Democratic majority (a tie with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker), aides have pointed out there is an expectation that Schumer and GOP Leader Mitch McConnell will come up with a power sharing agreement modeled after the one in 2001 between Trent Lott and Tom Daschle. The talks are still ongoing so we can't say for sure what that agreement will look like, but in 2001 the agreement allowed for evenly divided Senate committees, evenly divided budgets on the committees, equal access to common areas in the Capitol for both Republicans and Democrats and members from both parties were able to preside over the Senate. Those talks are ongoing just like the talks over how an impeachment trial may be run.
8:59 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

50% of Biden's nominees for Cabinet and Cabinet-level roles are people of color, CNN analysis finds 

Analysis by CNN's Nicquel Terry Ellis and Priya Krishnakumar

AP/Getty Images/Shutterstock
AP/Getty Images/Shutterstock

When President-elect Joe Biden takes office this Wednesday, he will inherit a nation that is divided. 

Americans are demanding leaders atone for the forces of White supremacy that motivated a mob to storm the US Capitol on Jan. 6 in its refusal to accept President Trump's loss. And people of color, despite their rising political power, have been among the communities hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and other disparities.

Biden has achieved a historic feat that observers hope will help begin the process of repairing a broken country.

The President-elect has the most racially diverse presidential Cabinet in the history of the US. A CNN analysis found that 50% of nominees for Cabinet positions and Cabinet-level positions are people of color.

That figure includes Vice President-elect Kamala Harris who will be the first Black and South Asian person and first woman to hold the position. Former President Barack Obama set the previous record for diversity with a Cabinet that was 42% people of color.  

Civil rights leaders have praised Biden for keeping his promise of creating a Cabinet that better reflects the country's changing demographics. However, this is only the first step and they are cautiously optimistic.  

Biden's administration will be expected to enact policies that lead to substantive change for communities of color. The Cabinet will be judged on whether it can end the Covid-19 pandemic and ensure vaccine access to underserved communities, support voting rights legislation, revive the economy, push police reform that addresses the fact that Black people are killed by police at higher rates, and reverse Trump's anti-immigration policies. Civil rights activists will also be looking for Biden to consider people of color for deputy roles in the Cabinet as well as judges and US attorneys. 

"We believe that Biden's Cabinet appointments are just the starting point for a slate of demands that Black people and other people of color have," said Arisha Hatch, vice president of Color of Change. "For us, diversity is just table stakes. It's like the baseline thing that needs to happen." 

8:53 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

As Trump enters his final days in office, here's where things stand in the impeachment trial

From CNN's Lauren Fox

US President Donald Trump speaks following a section of the border wall in Alamo, Texas, on January 12, 2021.
US President Donald Trump speaks following a section of the border wall in Alamo, Texas, on January 12, 2021. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The focus this week is on Biden becoming the 46th President of the United States, protecting Washington on Inauguration Day and preparing for a peaceful transition of power after the attack on the US Capitol.

Talks between incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's offices are ongoing about what makes the most sense for the timing of the trial.

While Biden has made it clear that he wants to split the day in half to allow his nominees to be confirmed in the morning ahead of the trial, that takes agreement from everyone. And it's not clear that all 100 senators are going to agree to it even if McConnell and Schumer could come to a consensus.

Again, those talks are ongoing. Aides and members do not expect the impeachment trial to begin until next week at the earliest, but no one knows for sure until House Speaker Nancy Pelosi makes it clear when she will send over the articles.

A very important reminder: Don't take the lack of answer for when a trial will begin as a lack of orchestration behind the scenes. We are moving into another chapter in American history where the President, Senate and House are all controlled by the same party and unlike Trump — who often caught his leadership off guard with rogue tweets or off-the-cuff statements — Pelosi and Schumer are on the same page here.

They don't need Biden to even tell them. They know what's at stake with an impeachment trial.

Once they go down that road, there is no turning back. The Senate is in session every day starting at 12 p.m. ET with members in their desks, six days a week for as long as the trial goes.

Sending the articles too soon without a firm agreement between Schumer and McConnell jeopardizes Biden's first 100 days, his ability to get his nominees through, not to mention any goal Biden had to heal the country after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. If it feels like we are stagnant right now, it's because working through the potential challenges and ramifications of this trial is an incredible undertaking.

As CNN reported last week, once Pelosi transmits the articles, it unlocks an entire series of steps that quickly have to follow. No one wants to move ahead until everyone is on the exact same page about what that is going to look like.

8:46 a.m. ET, January 18, 2021

Harris will resign her Senate seat today as she prepares to take office Wednesday

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on January 16, 2021, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware. 
US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on January 16, 2021, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware.  Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will officially resign Monday from her US Senate seat, ending her four-year Senate career, according to a Harris aide. The move comes two days before she's inaugurated on Wednesday, making history as the first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president.

Aides say Harris has already started the process of her resignation, having notified California Gov. Gavin Newsom of her intent and sent her formal indications that she'll be resigning Monday. Harris will not give a farewell speech on the Senate floor, due to the schedule.

Harris won her seat in November 2016 and was sworn in January 2017. At the time, Harris was California's attorney general.

Newsom has already named Alex Padilla, California's secretary of state, to fill Harris' seat. In a press call, he told reporters he would likely be sworn in himself on Wednesday.

The incoming vice president has spoken to Padilla before he comes into office, according to a person with knowledge of the discussion.

Harris made history throughout her career, becoming the first Black woman in California to serve as a senator.

In her November victory speech, she recognized the hard battle women faced to exercise their civic rights and break into the upper echelon of American politics, nodding to the women who came before her like former Rep. Shirley Chisholm and the young girls who will come after her.

"While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last," Harris said. "Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities."

Now, Harris will preside over the same chamber that she is stepping down from, becoming president of the Senate.