January 21, 2021
Joe Biden Sworn in as 46th President of the United States
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as president and vice president of the United States at noon on Wednesday, ushering in a new era of Democratic control of the White House. The oath of office was administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
In his inaugural address, an emotional President Biden called for national unity in the wake of what was one of the most contentious and divisive presidential elections in US history. “Today we celebrate the triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause—the cause of democracy. The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” Biden said.
The new president urged Congress and Americans of all political stripes to work together to unify the nation and overcome the issues so severely dividing the US. “To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words and requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy—unity,” Biden said. “Uniting to fight the foes we face, anger, resentment and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, and hopelessness. With unity we can do great things, important things.
“I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal, and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart,” Biden added. He noted that through the difficult times in US history such as the Civil War, the Great Depression, the world wars, and the September 11, 2001 attacks, “our better angels have always prevailed.”
President Biden also pledged to act as an advocate for all Americans, whether they voted for him or not. “For all those who supported our campaign, I’m humbled by the faith you placed in us. To all those who did not support us, let me say this: Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably within the guardrails of our republic is perhaps this nation’s greatest strength. Yet hear me clearly. Disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you: I will be a president for all Americans. All Americans. And I promise you, I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”
Biden then led the inauguration attendees in a moment of silence for the 400,000-plus Americans who have died during the coronavirus pandemic, and promised to do all he can to beat back the virus in the coming months.
Biden also thanked the former presidents who attended the inauguration for showing the strength of America’s democracy. “I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence here today. I thank them from the bottom of my heart… And I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation, as does President Carter, who I spoke with last night, who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime in service,” Biden said.
At 78 years old, Joe Biden is now the oldest United States president to ever take office, being even older than the three former presidents who were at the inauguration—Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. He is also older than now-former President Donald Trump, who is 74.
Because of the small crowd at the inauguration, the National Mall was outfitted with an art display intended to represent Americans across the nation. The mall was illuminated with 56 pillars of light, representing the 50 US states and six US territories. Close to 200,000 flags were also placed on the mall instead of the Biden supporters who were unable to attend the inauguration due to the coronavirus pandemic and the recent military lockdown of Washington, DC.
The inauguration was likely the most secure ever held, with 25,000 National Guard troops and countless other security forces from dozens of states and federal agencies on hand to ensure the safety of the event, turning downtown Washington, DC, into a veritable fortress. There had been warnings and fears of armed pro-Trump protesters attempting to wreak havoc on the inauguration, possibly even trying to kill Joe Biden over claims that he helped steal the election from Donald Trump. There were also concerns that an insider attack could be carried out by pro-Trump National Guardsmen, prompting the FBI to thoroughly vet every troop assigned the responsibility of protecting the event. A day before the inauguration, it was announced that 12 National Guardsmen were being removed from the security detail as a precaution, although the FBI said no plot to disrupt the proceedings had been uncovered.
Trump Exits White House
President Trump chose not to attend Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, making him one of three presidents, and the first in 152 years, to not attend the inauguration of his successor. Instead, Trump left the White House at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning and flew on Marine One to Joint Base Andrews, an Air Force base in Maryland where Air Force One is stationed, for a presidential send-off. The event was attended by Trump’s friends, family, and some allies, but dozens of invitees refused to participate as many in the Republican party attempt to distance themselves from the now-former president in the wake of the January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol.
Speaking at the event, Trump told the attendees that despite his loss, he “will be back” in some form. “I will always fight for you. I will be watching, I will be listening, and I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better. I wish the new administration great luck, great success,” Trump said. Trump then flew aboard Air Force One to his Mar-a-Lago resort and post-presidential residence in Palm Beach, Florida, landing at around 11 a.m.
Former Vice President Mike Pence and other top GOP officials skipped Trump’s send-off, with Pence attending Biden’s inauguration to demonstrate that a peaceful transition of power is continuing as it has for hundreds of years in the United States, despite the sitting president refusing to acknowledge it and having made statements calling Biden an “illegitimate” president.
Although he did not attend President Biden’s inauguration, Trump did follow through with the 32-year presidential tradition to leave a letter for the incoming president. Trump White House spokesman Judd Deere said that Trump left the letter for Biden in the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk, but would not divulge the contents of the letter. The tradition was started by former President Ronald Reagan, who left a letter for his vice president and incoming president George H. W. Bush, and it has continued ever since. Although not a tradition, Mike Pence also left a note for Vice President Kamala Harris, and he also left both Biden and Harris a report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Prior to leaving the White House, Trump released a video address to the nation in which he touted many of his accomplishments as president, including having a booming economy for much of his term, the Abraham Accords deals he brokered between Israel and Arab countries, cutting taxes and regulations, and taking a tougher stance against China, among others. Trump also condemned the January 6th riot at the US Capitol, saying that “all Americans were horrified by the assault” and adding that “political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated.” Trump also said that his “agenda was not about right or left. It wasn’t about Republican or Democrat, but about the good of a nation.”
Signing off for the final time, Trump said, “As I conclude my term as forty-fifth president of the United States, I stand before you truly proud of what we have achieved together. We embarked on a mission to make America great again for all Americans. We did what we came here to do and so much more.”
Pardons and Commutations Issued, Executive Action Taken
In his final hours as president, Donald Trump issued 143 pardons and commutations to over 100 individuals, including a last-minute pardon to former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who was charged with defrauding millions of dollars from donors who thought they were donating to building a wall on the border with Mexico. Several frum Jews were also pardoned by Trump, one of whom is from Lakewood.
Notably, Trump did not issue preemptive pardons for himself or his children, a possibility that had been reportedly discussed for weeks with Trump concerned that Democrats will try to take legal action against him. A preemptive pardon was also not issued for Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, whose relationship with the now-former president has soured in the last several weeks.
Others who received a pardon or commutation were Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy, former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a rapper known as Lil Wayne, and Albert Pirro, the husband of Trump’s staunch ally and Fox News host Jeanine Pirro.
Separately, Trump issued a number of executive actions that could hamstring Joe Biden’s agendas as president, including lifting travel restrictions from several countries that had been put into place due to the coronavirus pandemic, adding Cuba to the list of state sponsors of terror, designating Yemen’s Houthis a terrorist group, limiting the types of studies the Environmental Protection Agency can use when weighing new policy measures, and a rule that affects tip pooling for restaurant workers. A Biden official said that there are between 400 and 1,000 actions taken by President Trump and his administration that President Biden will work to undo, including the last-minute moves mentioned above.
Trump Discussing Forming New Party
There have been a number of reports regarding what Donald Trump will do in his post-presidency years. Some claimed that he would run again for president in 2024, another said that he would try to open his own TV network, and now there is another one. The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump has been discussing forming a new political party with aides and confidants over the last week, according to their sources. The party, if it were to be created, would be called the Patriot Party and would help the former president exert greater control over Washington despite numerous former GOP allies, including Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell, the top Republicans in the House and Senate, respectively, bucking Trump over his unfounded claims that the presidential election was “stolen” from him.
It isn’t clear how serious Trump is about starting a new party, and pulling it off successfully would be a major feat. Despite Trump boasting a strong base of supporters he can rely on, political parties also require massive amounts of cash and resources, commodities not easily obtained and even more difficult to keep.