Biden prepares for inauguration on Trump's last full day in office

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

Updated 1:38 AM ET, Wed January 20, 2021
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11:05 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Trump tells people he's decided to pardon Steve Bannon as one of his final acts in office 

From CNN's Pamela Brown and Kaitlan Collins

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in the Manhattan borough of New York City.
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

President Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.

Officials cautioned CNN that Trump's decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. 

Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.

Read more here.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports:

10:47 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Harris tells girls and boys to see themselves as future leaders at event honoring Black community

From CNN's Keith Allen

In this screengrab, Vice Presient-Elect Kamala Harris speaks during the "We Are One" celebration hosted by the Biden Inaugural Committee on January 19.
In this screengrab, Vice Presient-Elect Kamala Harris speaks during the "We Are One" celebration hosted by the Biden Inaugural Committee on January 19. Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Sen.-elect Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams were among the speakers at tonight’s Presidential Inaugural Committee virtual inaugural ball honoring the Black community.

In her closing remarks in tonight’s "We Are One" event, Harris thanked her fellow alumni from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and spoke specifically to Black children who may be tuning into the virtual event.

“I especially want to thank my HBCU brothers and sisters, my beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha, and our divine nine family. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for all of you and those who came before us. We are family. And though we cannot gather in person tonight, know that I carry each of you with me as I embark on this journey,” Harris said.

“Let me also say something directly to every little girl and boy who should also see themselves in this moment. I may be the first woman, I may be the first black person to hold this office, but I will not be the last,” Harris continued. “So, dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves as future leaders and as the very best of our country because that's who you are.”

Abrams, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and Fair Fight founder, also spoke about her state’s role in putting Joe Biden and Harris over the top in November, and her state’s historic runoff election that altered the balance of power in the US Senate.

“And what we are seeing happen in this nation today, what we saw happen in Georgia, first in November and again in January, is the compulsion to come together, the commitment to be one, to have a nation that sees us all that serves us all,” Abrams said. “And, so it was with incredible delight and pride that we delivered 16 electoral college votes from the great state of Georgia to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, it was with extraordinary joy and deep personal pride that we are sending you Senator-elect Raphael Warnock who will be sworn in tomorrow, along with Senator Jon Ossoff,” Abrams continued.

“It is with extraordinary gratitude that we say thank you to an administration that has already started to show us what leadership looks like again," she added.

Warnock, one of Georgia's new senators-elect, opened the event with a prayer.

9:54 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Here's Trump's final public schedule as President

President Donald Trump arrives in the early morning hours on Tuesday, January 5 at the White House in Washington.
President Donald Trump arrives in the early morning hours on Tuesday, January 5 at the White House in Washington. Andrew Harnik/AP

The White House schedule is out for the last day of President Trump’s term and it’s somewhat vague, listing only the President’s departure time of 8 a.m. ET.

There is no mention of the send-off ceremony scheduled at Joint Base Andrews that is expected to take place shortly after he and first lady Melania Trump leave the White House aboard Marine One.

His schedule says, "The President and The First Lady will depart the White House at 8:00AM for Palm Beach, Florida."

10:07 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Trump has raised the idea of starting a new political party in recent days

From CNN's Jim Acosta

President Trump has raised the idea of starting a new political party in recent days, a senior Trump adviser confirmed. The adviser immediately dismissed the idea as not serious. 

A separate White House adviser said the prospect of launching a new party was "lame." Another aide noted Trump is disgusted with Senate Republicans who will soon decide whether the ex-president should be convicted during his impeachment trial. 

It's unclear how determined Trump is to begin his own political party. In his farewell message video, Trump vowed his movement will carry on. The latest polls, including one from CNN, find Trump with the lowest approval ratings of his presidency. He is leaving office deeply unpopular.  

The Wall Street Journal first reported Trump's interest in a new party, saying he would call it the "patriot party."

CNN's Jim Acosta reports:

9:28 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Filmmaker Ken Burns: Inauguration eve feels like "New Year's Eve"

From CNN's Leinz Vales

On the eve of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, filmmaker Ken Burns said he felt "like tonight is New Year's Eve. I think we just got the dates wrong."

"I think we got a new possibility of turning a new leaf," Burns told CNN's Anderson Cooper, reflecting on the upcoming administration. "There is a real optimism there." 

Burns, an award-winning documentary filmmaker who spent most of his career documenting American history, went on to compare the President-elect to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"We have the oldest president in an FDR moment and this is a man who is tempered by loss," Burns said. "Just as FDR, a kind of thin ambitious guy is stricken with polio and develops an empathy that allows him to guide us through the depression and the second World War, Joe Biden's political career begins with unspeakable loss and has had unspeakable loss just recently and he's been able to turn that into something positive."

"You have to make sure that no one feels like they're extraneous and so much of this is about people having their problems magnified in a negative way and Joe Biden is the opposite of that. He reminds you, we're all in this together and that's the only way we get through it and that's how this American carnage ends."


8:28 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Harris thanks supporters during virtual ball: "I carry you all with me"

From CNN's Keith Allen

Biden Inaugural Committee/Getty Images 
Biden Inaugural Committee/Getty Images 

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was among the speakers in tonight’s virtual inaugural ball celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander communities co-hosted by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Harris thanked the AAPI community for their support during the campaign and pledged to continue supporting them after she is sworn in as vice president on Wednesday.

“I am proud to be with you tonight as our nation's first vice president-elect of Asian descent. My story is the story of millions of Americans, my mother Shyamala Gopalan arrived in the United States from India, she raised my sister Maya and made to know that though we may be the first, we should not be the last,” Harris said.

“I carry you all with me, I could not be more grateful for your continued support at this moment, and I cannot wait to see all that we will accomplish together," she added.

7:37 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff will escort the Pences to their motorcade following inauguration 

From CNN's Pamela Brown

The incoming second family — Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff — will walk the Pences to their motorcade after the inauguration ceremony at the US Capitol tomorrow, a source familiar with inauguration planning said.

Four years ago the Pences were the ones who walked the Bidens to the motorcade, as they took the office and the Bidens left Washington. 

This is in keeping with past protocol but is notable because the traditional walk with the first and second family to Marine One will not happen tomorrow as President Trump has decided to shun the inauguration and return to Florida before his term ends. 

8:08 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Michigan nurse who sang "Amazing Grace" says her heart was filled with love after meeting Biden 

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

The Michigan nurse who sang "Amazing Grace" at this evening's memorial service for the victims of Covid-19 described her brief encounter with President-elect Joe Biden before the performance, saying the meeting left her heart filled with love. 

"President-elect Biden, he just said, you know, 'in heaven it's probably all nurses,'" Lori Marie Key told CNN's Dana Bash.

"I just laughed," Key continued. "I know that expression meant that in the nursing community, we are a compassionate population of people, just to hear him say that and just to talk to me, my heart was filled with just love ... I still can't believe that I got to meet the President[-elect.]"

Key also went on to reflect on how her rendition of "Amazing Grace" in the Covid-19 ward at St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia, Michigan, brought her to perform on the National Mall in Washington, DC, the night before Biden's inauguration. 

She said she was known to sing at work and at the bedside of patients who needed strength as they fought for their lives. 

"I am always on our unit singing, making sure everybody is having a good time... I just never would have imagined it would bring me to this moment," she told Bash. 

"It gave [patients] so much strength just that try to make it another day, each day at time through what they were going through," she said.

Watch Lori Marie Key's interview:

7:13 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Blinken says Biden administration will keep embassy in Jerusalem and recognize it as capitol of Israel

From CNN's Nicole Gaouette

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the State Department told senators at his confirmation hearing that the incoming administration recognizes Jerusalem as the Capitol of Israel and said it would leave the US embassy in the contested holy city.

Asked if he recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol, Antony Blinken said, “yes.” And asked if the US embassy would remain in Jerusalem, Blinken again said, “yes.”

Both moves by the Trump administration were deeply controversial, as both Israelis and Palestinians claim the holy city as their capitol. The status of Jerusalem is such a thorny issue that international consensus was to leave discussion about it to the end of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Previous peace negotiations had included the idea that each side would claim a different part of the city as its capitol.

The Trump administration abandoned those internationally accepted parameters, stopped engaging with Palestinians, unilaterally moved its embassy to Jerusalem and recognized the city as Israel’s capitol. 

At Tuesday’s hearing, Blinken indicated that he believes the Trump administration policies have pushed Israelis and Palestinians farther from a peace deal than they have been in decades. He stressed he believes that a "two-state solution, however distant it may appear, is still the best and probably the only way to truly assure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state and of course to give the Palestinians the state to which they are entitled."

"The challenge, of course, is how to move forward on that at a time when ... it seems more distant than it's ever been, at least since Oslo," Blinken said. Offering some praise for the Abraham Accords, the normalization agreements the Trump administration brokered between Israel and Gulf countries, Blinken said he hopes those agreements create progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

“I hope that might also might create a greater sense of confidence and security in Israel as it considers its relationship with the Palestinians,” Blinken said, “because whether we like or not, whether they like or not, it's not just going away.”