December 9, 2021

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Biden inauguration: Start time, security measures, celebrity performances, how to watch

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Biden and Harris

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as President and Vice President, respectively, on Jan. 20, 2021.


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This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET’s coverage of the voting in November and its aftermath.

In just six days, the 59th inaugural ceremonies will be held on Jan. 20 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. The event will swear in President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Due to surging COVID-19 cases, the Jan. 6 attack of President Donald Trump’s supporters on the US Capitol, and the refusal of Trump himself to attend the ceremony — an announcement Trump made days before his impeachment on Jan. 13 — the scaled-back ceremony will take a different approach than in years past.

Concerns over more potential violence and security at the inauguration are growing, especially now that Trump has been impeached for a second time. Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, DC, has asked the US Interior Department to “cancel any and all public gathering permits in the District of Columbia, and deny any applications for a public gathering during the period Jan. 11 through Jan. 24.”

“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” Trump said in a statement Wednesday.

In a letter dated Jan. 9, Bowser wrote to Chad Wolf, then-acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, requesting the Department extend the national special security event period from Jan. 11 to 24. On Monday, Wolf resigned

Here’s everything we know about Biden’s inauguration so far. This story was recently updated with new information.

Read moreCould Trump pardon himself before leaving office? What to know

What time will Biden’s inauguration start?

The inauguration is scheduled to take place Wednesday, Jan. 20, on the west front of the US Capitol. Each elected US president’s term starts at noon ET that day, according to the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. The president-elect is required to take the oath of office before assuming duties. Following the presidential swearing-in ceremony, Biden will deliver his inaugural address. 

How can I watch Biden being sworn in as US president?

No exact air time has been announced just yet, though opening remarks historically take place around 11:30 ET/8:30 a.m. PT. The inauguration is likely to be live-streamed by every major news station, in addition to being shared on platforms like Facebook Live, Twitter and YouTube. It will be impossible to miss, but we’ll update this information when we know more.

Biden’s inaugural committee said on Jan. 4 that there will be a televised virtual parade featuring performances from people throughout the country. “The parade will celebrate America’s heroes and reflect on the diversity, heritage and resilience of our country,” the committee said in a tweet.

Following the storming of the US Capitol, DC’s mayor is encouraging Americans to participate virtually

What security measures will be in place during the inauguration?

Security has become a growing concern following the Capitol riots. In a letter, Bowser urged the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate with the departments of Defense and Justice, Congress and the Supreme Court to “establish a security and federal force deployment plan for all federal property.” She also sent a letter to Trump requesting that he declare a pre-emergency disaster for DC. 

“This is necessary because the inauguration poses several unprecedented challenges that exceed the scope of our traditional planning processes: the COVID-19 pandemic, and of course, the domestic terror attack on the United States Capitol,” Bowser said.

Trump approved the request Monday evening.

The Secret Service is calling it a “zero fail mission,” vowing the security will be “robust” with layered fencing and vehicle checkpoints.

On Jan. 11, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration warned airline travelers that threatening safety could lead to jail time or a $35,000 fine. This followed reports that every airline flying out of the DC area had experienced incidents recently. Airlines also rolled out heightened security after the riots and will continue to work alongside law enforcement agencies. 

The National Mall in DC will also reportedly be closed amid security concerns, and Biden will no longer take Amtrak to the inauguration due to security reasons.

Which celebrities and speakers will be there? 

While speakers haven’t been announced yet, inaugurations typically include appearances by A-list musicians and performers. This year, there will be a 90-minute TV special hosted by Tom Hanks that starts at 8:30 p.m. ET. 

Celebrity performances include:

  • Lady Gaga, singing the national anthem
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Jennifer Lopez 
  • Demi Lovato
  • Ant Clemons
  • Jon Bon Jovi

 Politicians and religious leaders — including archbishops, pastors and rabbis — also usually give speeches.

Can I get tickets to the inauguration? 

Traditionally, members of the public request free tickets through the office of their US senator or representative, but not this year. Due to COVID-19 concerns, Americans won’t be able to get tickets, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced in mid-December. 

“The JCCIC, in consultation with diversified public health and medical experts and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, has determined that this global pandemic and the rise in COVID-19 cases warranted a difficult decision to limit attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live audience that resembles a State of the Union,” said JCCIC Chairman Roy Blunt. “We are also working on enhanced opportunities to watch the ceremonies online, in addition to the traditional televised national broadcast.”

This time around, invitations to members of Congress will be limited to themselves and one guest. Commemorative ticket bundles and program packets will be made available to congressional offices for constituents following the ceremonies.

Read more: Ahead of inauguration, Airbnb to cancel DC reservations

Is President Trump attending? 

Trump tweeted on Jan. 8 that he wouldn’t be in attendance. “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the inauguration on January 20th,” he said. 

That’s “one of the few things he and I have ever agreed on,” Biden said Jan. 8. “It’s a good thing, him not showing up.”

Vice President Mike Pence will reportedly attend.

Trump’s tweet came hours before Twitter permanently suspended his account following the insurrection on Jan. 6, a move that Trump is widely agreed to have incited amid false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Former presidents — including the unseated president as well as presidents from previous terms — traditionally attend the inauguration of the president-elect, but there have been exceptions. According to the White House Historical Association, John Adams didn’t attend Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration, and John Quincy Adams didn’t attend the inauguration of successor Andrew Jackson.

What’s the theme of the inauguration?

On Monday, the Biden Inaugural Committee tweeted that the theme is America United, adding: “At a time of unprecedented crisis and deep divisions, America United reflects the start of a new journey to restore the soul of America, bring the country together, and create a path to a brighter future.”

What’s Biden’s top priority when he becomes president? 

The president-elect says one of his biggest priorities is working to tackle COVID-19. Biden and Harris have already announced the formation of a COVID-19 advisory board to help shape the upcoming administration’s response to the pandemic. The board consists of 13 public health experts and will be led by co-chairs Dr. David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner; Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former US surgeon general; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a researcher at Yale University.

Biden has also set a framework for another stimulus bill and has backed a third stimulus check for up to $2,000 per person. He also unveiled a plan that aims to ensure the US achieves a 100% clean-energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050. During the presidential debates, Biden promised to get the US back into the Paris climate deal, which the US withdrew from under Trump. He reiterated that promise in his climate plan.





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