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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4:29 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Biden lands at Joint Base Andrews on the eve of his inauguration 

From CNN's Maeve Reston, Jeff Zeleny and Jim Acosta


President-elect Joe Biden is landing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland ahead of his inauguration tomorrow in the nation's capital.

Biden flew today on a private aircraft, yet another change in protocol on the eve of his inauguration.

A person familiar with the matter confirmed to CNN that Biden was not taking a US government plane to Joint Base Andrews for the first stop of his inauguration festivities.

A second source familiar with the matter said the government did not offer the Bidens a plane, but did not have details.

A White House official, meanwhile, said the Biden team did not ask for a government plane to bring Biden to DC. The official said the administration explained to the Biden team what the options were. But aides to Biden explained they preferred to fly on private aircraft, the official added. 

Where Biden goes later: Biden will participate in a memorial this afternoon honoring the more than 400,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19, with 400 lights illuminating the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

Hundreds of towns, cities and communities across the country plan to join in the solemn tribute with lighting ceremonies of their own at buildings from the Empire State Building in New York City to the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington.

Biden will be joined by his wife Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, will deliver the invocation and gospel singer Yolanda Adams will perform "Hallelujah."

Biden had hoped to infuse his arrival in Washington, DC, with a nostalgic twist by riding a train from his home in Delaware, but that was deemed too much of a security risk at a time when the nation is facing threats from within.

Watch here:

4:26 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Biden's DNI nominee commits to release report on murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

President-elect Joe Biden’s Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines committed today to publicly release a report on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – a report the Trump administration had refused to publish.

Haines was asked by Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, whether she would comply with a law Congress passed to release an unclassified report on Khashoggi’s murder. President Donald Trump refused the congressional mandate to tell Congress whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the murder, ignoring a 2019 deadline.

“Congress passed a law requiring the DNI to submit to Congress an unclassified report on who was responsible for the brutal murder of Saudi journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. If you are confirmed, will you submit to Congress the unclassified report required by the law?” Wyden asked.

“Yes, Senator, absolutely will follow the law,” Haines said.

4:31 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Stocks finish higher on last trading day of the Trump administration

From CNN's Anneken Tappe 

US stocks closed higher on the last trading day of the Trump administration but fell short of reaching new record highs.

Here's how the markets closed: 

  • The Dow finished 0.4%, or 116 points, higher.
  • The S&P 500 closed up 0.8%.
  • The Nasdaq Composite ended 1.5% higher.

Netflix is among the companies reporting earnings after the bell.

Remember: As stocks settle after the trading day, levels might still change slightly.

3:56 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Federal prosecutors have charged over 100 people in Capitol Hill riot

From CNN's Paul Murphy and Katelyn Polantz

According to the Justice Department and unsealed court records, CNN has identified over 100 federal defendants that have been charged in the Capitol Hill riot. 

Most charges are for unlawful or violent entry to restricted grounds of the Capitol, some charges have revealed more serious allegations including heavily armed rioters and paramilitary group members around Washington, DC, on Jan. 6.

On Tuesday, the dragnet brought in several new arrestees, including three people charged in the first major conspiracy case related to Oath Keepers who allegedly coordinated an effort for the siege in advance.

3:55 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Biden's Defense secretary pick pledges to fight "to rid our ranks of racists and extremists"

From CNN's Michael Conte

Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP
Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP

In his opening remarks for his confirmation hearing, retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be Defense Secretary, pledged to “fight hard… to rid our ranks of racists and extremists.”

“The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies,” said Austin. “But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.”
3:53 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Russia "very high on the agenda," says Biden's pick for secretary of state

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Nicky Robertson

Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP
Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP

Secretary of State designate Antony Blinken said Russia is "very high on the agenda" for the Biden administration.

"We've talked about a number of challenges. The challenge posed by Russia across a whole series of fronts is also one that is urgent," he said at his confirmation hearing.

Blinken specifically addressed the arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, saying, "It is extraordinary how frightened Vladimir Putin seems to be a one man."

"I think that speaks volumes. And Mr. Navalny is a voice, I think, for millions and millions and millions of Russians, and their voice needs to be heard in in Russia. And the attempts to silence that voice by silencing Mr. Navalny is something that we strongly condemn and we've spoken to it, and will continue to do so," he said.
6:04 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Biden's secretary of state nominee says Trump was right to take tougher approach to China

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

Alex Edelman/Pool via AP
Alex Edelman/Pool via AP

Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken bluntly said that President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China, even though he does not agree with the Trump administration’s tactics.

“Let me just say that I also believe that President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China. I disagree, very much with the way that he went about it in a number of areas but the basic principle was the right one and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy,” Blinken told members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

He did not detail the exact areas where he took issue with Trump’s approach to China.

Blinken — who described China as posing the “most significant challenge of any nation state to the United States” – said the country must be approached from a “position of strength.” He explained that a position of strength can be accomplished when the US works with allies, leads in international institutions, investing at home and stands up for human rights.

“If we come together and do them,” Blinken said taking the actions to put the US into a position of strength. “I think we can then deal with the specific challenges that China poses from that position of strength, not a position of weakness.”

3:27 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

GOP Sen. Hawley blocks quick consideration of Biden's Homeland Security nominee

From CNN's Phil Mattinlgy

Sen. Josh Hawley in December.
Sen. Josh Hawley in December. Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley blocked the quick consideration of President-Elect Joe Biden’s Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas.

Mayorkas appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for his confirmation hearing.

Hawley released a statement following his actions, saying that Mayorkas "has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures."

"Just today, he declined to say he would enforce the laws Congress has already passed to secure the border wall system. Given this, I cannot consent to skip the standard vetting process and fast-track this nomination when so many questions remain unanswered," he said.

The Missouri senator has fielded a wave of backlash in the days since Jan. 6, when he and other Republicans in Congress raised objections to the counting of some Electoral College votes for Joe Biden, pushing false claims of voter fraud that were echoed by members of the mob incited by President Trump.

3:24 p.m. ET, January 19, 2021

Louisiana State Capitol will be closed on Wednesday

From CNN's Kay Jones

A general view of the Louisiana State Capitol in April 2020.
A general view of the Louisiana State Capitol in April 2020. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge will be closed on Wednesday.

The closure is "out of abundance of caution" and will only apply to Wednesday, according to the offices of house speaker Clay Schexnayder and Morgan Robertson, of the state senate. The capitol building will reopen on Thursday, both offices told CNN.

In a statement released on Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said that federal, state and local officials have been in touch about warnings of planned protests. He said that "while so far no violence or lawlessness has occurred at protests in Louisiana, we are prepared and will respond as necessary."

As CNN previously reported, Edwards will be in attendance at Wednesday's inauguration ceremonies in Washington, DC.