Biden sworn in as US president, takes helm of deeply divided nation

 khaleejtimes.com  01/20/2021 17:46:16   AFP/Washington

9:02pm: Biden calls for unity on ‘day of history and hope’

US President Joe Biden called for “unity” and pledged to be a president for “all Americans” at his inauguration in Washington Wednesday, but warned of the challenges ahead as he takes on multiple crises.

8:47pm: Trump's VP Pence applauds successor Kamala Harris

Pence spoke with Harris last Thursday, marking the highest-level contact between the outgoing and incoming administrations.

The father of a Marine Corps F-35 pilot, Pence and his wife thanked troops for their service during a final visit to U.S. troops at military bases in California and New York over the weekend. Pence also met with National Guard troops guarding the Capitol, vowing to ensure a safe transition of power.

8:36pm: How world leaders are reacting to Joe Biden’s inauguration

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON, SPEAKING IN PARLIAMENT

“I look forward to working with him (Biden), and with his new administration, strengthening the partnership between our countries and working on our shared priorities: from tackling climate change, building back better from the pandemic and strengthening our transatlantic security.”

8:34pm: India PM Modi wishes President Biden

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished Joe Biden as he took office as the 46th US President on Wednesday.

Taking to Twitter, Modi tweeted:

'My warmest congratulations to @JoeBiden on his assumption of office as President of the United States of America. I look forward to working with him to strengthen India-US strategic partnership. My best wishes for a successful term in leading USA as we stand united and resilient in addressing common challenges and advancing global peace and security.

8:32pm: Biden sworn in as US president, takes helm of deeply divided nation

Joe Biden on Wednesday became the 46th president of the United States, vowing a “new day” for the United States after four years of tumult under Donald Trump who in an extraordinary final act snubbed the inauguration.

Two weeks to the day after Trump supporters violently rampaged at the US Capitol to overturn the election results, Biden took the oath on the same very steps alongside Kamala Harris, who was sworn in moments earlier as the first woman vice president.

Biden, putting his hand on a family Bible, repeated after Chief Justice John Roberts the presidential oath — that he will “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

“It’s a new day in America,” Biden wrote on Twitter before the inauguration as, in a sign of his push for unity, he prayed alongside congressional leaders at a Roman Catholic church.

Biden, who at 78 is the oldest president in US history and only the second Catholic, took office amid enormous challenges with the still-raging Covid-19 pandemic having claimed 400,000 lives in the United States.

8:20pm: Kamala Harris sworn in as US vice president

Former California senator Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president of the United States on Wednesday, the first woman ever to hold the post.

Harris, 56, took the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a ceremony at the US Capitol.

She is the first Black woman and the first woman of South Asian descent to become US vice president.

8:12pm: Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration ceremony has begun

Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration ceremony has begun.

Biden swears the oath of office at noon Wednesday, becoming the 46th president of the United States. The Democrat is preparing to take the helm of a deeply divided nation and inherit crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.

History will be made at Biden’s side, as Kamala Harris becomes the first woman to be vice president.

The ceremony in which presidential power is transferred is a hallowed American democratic tradition. And this time it serves as a jarring reminder of the challenges Biden faces: The inauguration unfolds at a U.S. Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago, encircled by security forces. It’s devoid of crowds because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Flouting tradition, Donald Trump departed Washington on Wednesday morning ahead of the inauguration rather than accompany his successor to the Capitol.

Former Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are attending.

The other living former president, 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, previously announced he would not attend.

Joe Biden arrived Wednesday to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, vowing a “new day” for the United States after four years of tumult under Donald Trump who in an extraordinary final act snubbed the inauguration.

Two weeks to the day after Trump supporters violently rampaged at the US Capitol to overturn the election results, Biden headed to the same very steps alongside Kamala Harris, who will become the first woman vice president.

“It’s a new day in America,” Biden wrote on Twitter before the inauguration as, in a sign of his push for unity, he prayed alongside congressional leaders at a Roman Catholic church.

Biden, who at 78 will be the oldest president in US history, takes office amid enormous challenges with the still-raging Covid-19 pandemic having claimed 400,000 lives in the United States.

Central Washington has taken on the dystopian look of an armed camp, protected by some 25,000 National Guard troops tasked with preventing any repeat of the January 6 attack that left five dead. The Supreme Court reported a bomb threat Wednesday morning.

With the general public essentially barred from attending due to the pandemic, Biden’s audience at the National Mall instead was 200,000 flags planted to represent the absent crowds.

“It’s a day a lot of us have been trying to visualize for a long time. We couldn’t have guessed that the visual would be quite like this,” Pete Buttigieg, the former presidential contender tapped by Biden as transportation secretary, told reporters.

Biden, who was vice president under Barack Obama and first ran for president in 1987, plans to kick off his tenure with a flurry of 17 orders to turn the page on Trump’s divisive reign.

Officials said Biden will immediately rejoin the Paris climate accord and stop the US exit from the World Health Organization and set new paths on immigration, the environment, Covid-19 and the economy.

He will also end Trump’s much-assailed ban on visitors from several majority-Muslim countries and halt construction of the wall that Trump ordered on the US-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration, the aides said.

For the first time in 152 years, the sitting president did not accompany his successor to the inauguration after Trump for two months falsely alleged that fraud cost him a second term.

Several hours before the inauguration, Trump, 74, and first lady Melania Trump walked a short red carpet on the White House lawn to the Marine One helicopter, which flew near the inauguration-ready Capitol before heading to Andrews Air Force Base on Washington’s outskirts.

“This has been an incredible four years,” Trump told several hundred cheering supporters in a campaign-style event before flying off for the last time in Air Force One en route to his Florida resort.

“We will be back in some form,” vowed Trump, who retains a hold on much of the Republican Party despite being the first president to be impeached twice.

Trump did not address Biden by name but, in a rare hint of graciousness, wished the next administration “great luck and great success.”

A spokesman said Trump maintained one tradition by leaving a letter for Biden, although the contents were unknown.

Mike Pence, the outgoing vice president who clashed with Trump in his final days by acknowledging he could not overturn the election, was attending the inauguration alongside former presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and their wives — including Hillary Clinton, for whom Biden’s victory was especially sweet four years after her narrow, surprise defeat to Trump.

In one of his last acts before departing the White House, Trump issued scores of pardons to people convicted of crimes or facing charges, including several key allies.

Influential former Trump aide Steve Bannon — charged with defrauding people over funds raised to build the Mexico border wall, a flagship Trump policy — was among 73 people on a list released by the White House.

However, neither Trump nor his relatives were listed, amid speculation he could use the legally dubious tactic of a preemptive pardon to fend off future charges.

Former Trump fund-raiser Elliott Broidy was similarly pardoned, after pleading guilty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws.

The rapper Lil Wayne, who last month pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, and faced 10 years in jail, also made the list.

Trump will still be in focus at the Capitol as the Senate considers convicting him after he was impeached for inciting the mob earlier this month.

The spectacle will clash with the opening days of Biden’s tenure, as the new president seeks to swiftly confirm his Cabinet picks and push through ambitious legislation — including a $1.9 trillion rescue package.

Many overseas leaders breathed a sigh of relief at the end of Trump’s hawkish, go-it-alone presidency, with Biden’s team pledging greater cooperation with the rest of the world.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani hailed the departure of “tyrant” Trump, saying “the ball is in America’s court” to return to a landmark nuclear deal and lift sanctions on Tehran.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said Biden’s inauguration would “be a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy,” as well as “the resounding proof that, once again, after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”

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