The latest on Biden's inauguration and security threats

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 9:56 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021
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9:28 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Lawmakers ask travel companies for help in preventing attacks ahead of inauguration

From CNN's Greg Wallace and Lauren Fox

Lawmakers are asking for help from travel companies to prevent an attack on the inauguration and investigate last week’s Capitol insurrection.  

On Thursday the House Oversight Committee sent letters to more than two dozen operators of bus lines, rental car companies and hotels asking for assistance "identifying and preventing the ongoing and extreme threat of further violent attacks in Washington, DC, and elsewhere, over the coming days." 

The request noted that the rioters who attacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6, "relied on a range of companies and services to get them there and house them once they arrived." 

The letter asks the companies to increase security and screening of guests and keep business records available for future investigations, as well as provide Congress with records of any policies "currently in place or being developed to ensure that your services are not used to facilitate violence or domestic terrorism."  

The bus companies include:  

  • Greyhound
  • Megabus
  • BoltBus
  • Lux Bus America
  • Vamoose
  • Jefferson Lines
  • Peter Pan
  • Flixbus
  • RedCoach 

The rental car companies include: 

  • Enterprise
  • Hertz
  • Avis
  • National
  • Alamo
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Thrifty

The hotel and accommodation companies include:  

  • Expedia, owner of VRBO
  • Intercontinental Hotels Group
  • Accor Group
  • Hyatt
  • Hilton
  • Choice Hotels
  • Marriott
  • Best Western International
  • Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
  • Extended Stay America
9:26 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Biden's inauguration is 5 days away. Here's what we know about the event so far. 

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf, Alex Marquardt, Jeff Zeleny and Kate Sullivan

US President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware on January 14, 2021.
US President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware on January 14, 2021. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The invitations have been scaled back by the pandemic and the security has been heightened by the insurrection, but Joe Biden's inauguration as the 46th president of the United States next week will still have plenty of pomp.

Biden's inauguration is set to take place Wednesday, as the nation's capital continues to fortify the area around the US Capitol following last week's attack.

Here are some key things we know about the event so far:

  • Tightened security: The National Mall will be shut down to keep people away, so we will all be spared another comparison of crowd sizes, especially since President Trump's Twitter handle has been turned off. The threat of violent protests from election-denying Trump supporters and the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops will keep anyone from forgetting Trump's turbulent leadership, or lack thereof. The US Secret Service on Wednesday officially took charge of security for Biden's inauguration, working in coordination with federal law enforcement agencies and the Pentagon. The FBI has warned of armed protests in all 50 state capitals and the TSA is moving to restrict guns in checked baggage. Biden had been planning to take the Amtrak to Washington next week to be sworn in as president, but those plans were scrapped amid the dramatically heightened security surrounding the inauguration.
  • Swearing-in ceremony at Capitol: The President-elect and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are still expected to take their oaths of office on the West Front of the US Capitol during a significantly scaled-down event. Biden said this week that he was "not afraid of taking the oath outside" and that his team had been receiving briefings in the wake of the violence. All the normal VIPs, incoming and outgoing Cabinet members, lawmakers and Supreme Court justices are likely to attend, as is outgoing Vice President Mike Pence. Trump will not. It's rare, but not unheard of, for a president to skip the transfer of power. Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga will add some show-biz glitz to the ceremony, looking out on an empty Mall, a show of defiance to the people who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, maybe. 
  • Large virtual component: There will be no public parade from the Capitol to the White House, but instead a virtual parade bringing in people from around the country.The inaugural balls — usually there are multiple and the new president makes a short appearance at several — will be replaced by a produced TV show featuring stars like Hanks along with Justin Timberlake. This will feel very much like the Covid inauguration.
  • Trump's departure: President Trump tweeted last week that he will not attend Biden's inauguration and CNN has reported the Trumps are scheduled to leave Washington the day prior, on Jan.19. Biden will stay at the Blair House the night before the inauguration next week. A State Department spokesperson tells CNN, “as is customary, the White House offered use of the Blair House for Jan 19th and it was accepted.” Every president-elect since Jimmy Carter has stayed at Blair House, the guest home that sits across the street from the White House.

CNN's Kylie Atwood and Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting to this post.

9:28 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Rehearsal for Biden's inauguration ceremony pushed a day due to security concerns 

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Members of the New York National Guard stand guard along the fence that surrounds the U.S. Capitol on January 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Members of the New York National Guard stand guard along the fence that surrounds the U.S. Capitol on January 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Sunday rehearsal for the inauguration ceremony will be delayed a day following heightened security concerns, acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told CNN Friday morning.

"It is going to take place on Monday, is the current schedule. Secret Service is in charge of running that schedule, but that's done in partnership with Biden team, and it was their decision to delay a day," Cuccinelli told CNN's John Berman on "New Day."

Cuccinelli cited "online chatter" about Sunday, but said there are "no specific credible threats."

"The decision was made to delay a day and leave the Secret Service in a position, and the whole team across the Washington metro area, to be prepared to respond on that day if needed," he said.

Law enforcement officials have warned that domestic extremists are likely more emboldened to carry out attacks on the inauguration, which takes place next Wednesday, and throughout 2021 after seeing the success of last week's siege on the US Capitol.

"We certainly agree there's a good deal of online chatter. It isn't just about Washington, by the way. There's also conversations about state capitols but very unspecific," Cuccinelli said, citing a briefing with state and local law enforcement earlier in the week along with FBI Director Chris Wray. "It's that higher level of tension that we focus on."

Cuccinelli discusses on CNN:

8:55 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

DC attorney general says his office is scrutinizing speeches by Trump and others before riot

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Karl A. Racine, attorney general for the District of Columbia, said the speeches such as those given by President Trump, GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump Jr. are getting “full scrutiny” by his office.

“The inciting violence charge is a difficult claim to bring because there is a First Amendment right of free speech. However, speech that incites violence … certainly deserves the full scrutiny of the law, and that's what we're doing in our office,” Racine said on CNN’s “New Day.”

His office is carefully reviewing laws related to free speech, he said. 

“They're talking about combat justice, not showing weakness and fight on … Those seem to be words that are closer to words asking for violence, and we're going to make the tough decision and the right call,” he added. 

Racine also dismissed some lawmakers’ claims comparing Black Lives Matter protests to the Capitol riot.

“Trying to overturn an election with violence, including violence on police officers, is something very, very different. And they should be held to account for their lies,” Racine said.  


8:41 a.m. ET, January 15, 2021

Acting Homeland Security deputy secretary says there is a "raised level of tension" after riot

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Ken Cuccinelli testifiying before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on "Threats to the Homeland" on Capitol Hill on September 24, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Ken Cuccinelli testifiying before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on "Threats to the Homeland" on Capitol Hill on September 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images

Acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli said there are “no specific credible threats at this point in time” after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, but there’s a raised security level across the US. 

“There's just this raised level of tension. And so we're raising our security level. And we're doing it across the country,” Cuccinelli said on CNN’s “New Day.” 

DHS is prepared to assist state and local law enforcement if they call on them to do so, he said. 

“We are pre-positioning people on alert statuses around the country, so we can respond more quickly,” Cuccinelli said. 

Cuccinelli also said that Capitol Police leadership failed to prepare its officers for Jan. 6. They had the same intelligence information as DHS did, he said. 

“We want to be able to deal with these situations out front, and the Capitol Police, who was responsible for this, really failed to do it,” he added.

When asked if the situation could be defused if President Trump would come forward and say definitively that President-elect Joe Biden won and there was no election fraud, Cuccinelli said that Trump has already broadcast “an anti-violence message” to remain peaceful.

Claims of election fraud are “one of the narratives in the online chatter,” Cuccinelli said. 

Cuccinelli also said federal teams will be “aggressive” in investigating and prosecuting rioters who broke the law or any who may be planning additional attacks. 


1:30 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021

These are the key signals and senators to watch for as the impeachment trial looms

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) displays a signed article of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. 
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) displays a signed article of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The House and Senate are gone and attention is on President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration next week. But be on the lookout for any signals that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and incoming Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are having conversations about impeachment.

One of the key dynamics that will govern whether senators push forward with an impeachment trial at the beginning of President-elect Joe Biden's presidency or whether they wait is going to be whether Republicans agree to allow some of Biden's nominees to move quickly through their confirmation processes in the mornings before the trial. Multiple sources have told CNN that there isn't a clear signal yet whether Republicans would allow the kind of dual-tracking Senate trial that Biden has suggested he'd like to see.

Also, keep your eye on the statements coming from Republican senators: Over the next several days, some Republicans senators will make it very clear where they stand on impeachment. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, both Republicans from South Carolina, have done that. And Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, said that after Trump leaves office, "the Senate lacks constitutional authority to conduct impeachment proceedings against a former President."

Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio who is up for reelection in 2022, said his decision with be based off of not only the evidence he hears, but "among my considerations will be what is best to help heal our country rather than deepen our divisions."

Republicans must have 17 members vote "yes" to convict Trump in the Senate. All eyes have been on what McConnell decides. Multiple GOP aides have told CNN that McConnell's decision will certainly have an impact on the conference. But, it's also important to remember that while McConnell has a lot of influence, he's not going to be whipping members on a vote like this. And, for members in states where Trump is popular, McConnell's vote may not sway them at all.

That doesn't mean members are not obsessing about where McConnell falls on this. In fact, multiple Republican members and aides CNN has spoken to in recent days have wondered why McConnell has stayed as quiet as he has. Members are asking each other what their leader is thinking.

CNN asked a series of Republican senators if they'd heard from McConnell in recent days on this topic and aside from the conference-wide note he sent on Wednesday, all of the members and aides said McConnell has been giving members their space to think through this on their own.