Political

Biden inauguration updates: Biden, Harris hold tribute to COVID victims

Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty ImagesBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, IVAN  PEREIRA and LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump has one full day left in office before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

Here is how events are unfolding. All times Eastern:

Jan 19, 7:46 pm
Florida Trump supporters plan welcoming gathering

Trump’s supporters in Florida are planning to line the streets in a show of support for his final presidential motorcade Wednesday morning from Palm Beach International Airport to Mar-a-Lago.

Trump is expected to land around 11 a.m. and in an email Tuesday to supporters, Club 45, a popular pro-Trump Florida group, urged locals to show up early to line the streets and give the president “the largest welcome home greeting ever.”

The email included a photo of Trump waving from inside another motorcade.

-ABC News’ Will Steakin

Jan 19, 5:54 pm
Biden, Harris hold memorial for Americans lost to COVID-19

Just hours before they are sworn into office President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris took time to honor the 400,000 Americans who died as a result of the novel coronavirus.

After an invocation, Harris led the memorial, which took place in front of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and called on Americans to stand together.

“For many months we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight we grieve and begin healing together. Though we may be physically separated, we, the American people, are united in spirit,” she said.

Biden thanked the country’s nurses and also echoed the call for unity.

“To heal we must remember, and it’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal,” he said.

As the ceremony ended, 400 lights along the pool were lit up, symbolizing the lives lost. Church bells around the country rang in unison and gospel singer Yolanda Adams sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Jan 19, 4:26 pm
Trump releases pre-taped farewell address

The White House has released a pre-taped farewell address from President Trump on his final full day in office.

“We did what we came here to do – and so much more,” Trump said, speaking from scripted remarks directly into the camera and standing behind a lectern with the presidential seal. “This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous. We extend our best wishes, and we also want them to have luck — a very important word.”

Trump thanked several people, including Vice President Mike Pence.

“Most of all, I want to thank the American people,” Trump said. “To serve as your president has been an honor beyond description. Thank you for this extraordinary privilege.”

Trump then condemned the riot at the Capitol and called on Americans to “unite around our shared values.”

“All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated,” Trump said.

He warned that the greatest danger the country faces as he leaves office is “a loss of confidence in our national greatness” — going on to talk about the shared “heritage” of the country under threat and condemning “political censorship and blacklisting.”

“Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning,” he said, closing out the 20-minute farewell address.

Jan 19, 4:07 pm
Pence attending Biden’s inauguration, skipping Trump’s farewell event

Vice President Mike Pence will not be attending Trump’s farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews on Wednesday, according to his schedule.

Instead, his only event of the day is to attend Biden’s inauguration.

-ABC News’ Elizabeth Thomas

Jan 19, 3:52 pm
Biden arrives at Joint Base Andrews

Biden and future first lady Jill Biden arrived at Joint Base Andrews shortly before 4 p.m. Tuesday.

They boarded their flight to Washington, D.C., from New Castle County Airport in Delaware and departed shortly after 3 p.m.

In Washington, the Bidens, as well as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, will take part in a national COVID-19 memorial service at the Lincoln Memorial Tuesday evening to honor the 400,000 Americans who have lost their lives to the virus.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Ben Gittleson

Jan 19, 2:12 pm
Biden delivers emotional remarks ahead of departure to Washington

Biden delivered short but emotional farewell remarks in a send-off event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday afternoon, and wiped away tears as he wished his adopted state — which first elected him to U.S. Senate at the age of 29 — goodbye.

Apologizing for his emotions, Biden said he’ll always be “a proud son of the state of Delaware.”

“Excuse the emotion, but when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart,” Biden said, choking up.

Biden also recalled a story he often shared on the trail, noting the historic nature of his time as vice president, serving alongside the nation’s first Black president and now being a part of another historic feat, being inaugurated with the country’s first Black female vice president, saying, “That’s America,” to applause.

In another emotional moment, Biden said his only regret was that his late son, Beau Biden, wasn’t there with them. The location Biden spoke at, the Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center, was named for his son, who died of brain cancer in 2015.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I only have one regret, that he’s not here, because we should be introducing him as president,” Biden said.

Beau was 46 when he died, and Biden is hours away from being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.

“I know these are dark times, but there’s always light. That’s what makes this state so special. That’s what it taught me, it taught me the most — there’s always light,” Biden told the small crowd of supporters.

Before he spoke, he gave a masked kiss on the cheek to his sister, Valerie Biden-Owens, who he has often described as his best friend, and during his remarks referenced all of the Biden family members who were in the crowd, including his son Hunter Biden, his wife Melissa, their young child, and Biden’s grandchildren: Naomi, Finnegan, Maisy, Natalie and Hunter.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Jan 19, 1:26 pm
Georgia runoff election results officially certified

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has certified the results of the Jan. 5 runoff election, according to a press release.

The certificates of election must now be signed and issued by Gov. Brian Kemp. A representative for Kemp must then physically deliver those certificates for Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff’s victories to the secretary of the Senate, per Senate rules, triggering the swearing-in process.

On Wednesday after her own swearing in, then-Vice President Kamala Harris will swear-in Warnock and Ossoff, as well as the successor to her California Senate seat, former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, according to a Harris aide.

Once the certificates are delivered and all are sworn in, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will be handed the reins as majority leader.

Jan 19, 1:03 pm
McConnell points blame at Trump for Capitol attack

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pointing blame at Trump for inciting the mob of rioters that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell said from the Senate floor Tuesday.

His remarks come six days after the Democratic-led House impeached Trump on one charge of “incitement of insurrection” and after McConnell indicated he was weighing whether to vote to convict Trump.

Jan 19, 12:50 pm
Biden to depart Wilmington for Washington

After his final night at home before his inauguration as the 46th president of the United States, Biden is wishing Wilmington, Delaware, farewell in afternoon remarks at a “send-off event” before he heads to Washington, D.C., Tuesday afternoon.

Biden will no longer be taking an Amtrak trip from Wilmington to Washington, as he was accustomed to doing as Delaware senator, due to security concerns.

Once he’s in Washington, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the early evening plan to speak at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to honor COVID-19 victims — on the same day the country may hit [400,000 deaths]( from the pandemic — while facing a National Mall filled with 200,000 American flags.

Jan 19, 11:57 am
Pence arrives at White House on last full day as vice president

Vice President Mike Pence arrived at the White House for his last full day in office on Tuesday morning around 11 a.m.

Pence will be leading his final White House coronavirus task force meeting at 2 p.m., according to his public schedule.

Trump and Pence met at the White House last Monday for 90 minutes, their first time speaking after the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Jan 19, 11:30 am
Two National Guard members with ties to far right groups pulled from mission

A defense official confirms that vetting has found two Army National Guard members who have ties to far right groups have been removed from the inauguration security mission. They are currently under investigation.

Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told NBC News Tuesday morning, “We don’t allow extremism of any type in our organization.”

At least 21,500 National Guardsmen are in Washington, D.C., the D.C. Guard confirmed to ABC News on Monday, with the preparations coming ahead of Biden’s inauguration and in the aftermath of the deadly Capitol raid conducted by Trump supporters earlier this month.

The ramp-up in the number of Guardsmen in the nation’s capital means there could be four times as many American military service members in the city than there are in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

The Department of Defense is referring questions to the Secret Service.

Jan 19, 11:04 am
Key confirmation hearings underway for Biden’s Cabinet picks

The rush of confirmation hearings for Biden’s Cabinet nominees kicked off Tuesday morning with those being vetted for top jobs in national intelligence and the heads of the Departments of Homeland Security, Treasury, State and Defense appearing before the Senate both virtually and on the heavily fortified Capitol grounds.

Senate committees will hear the cases for Janet Yellen to serve as treasury secretary, Avril Haines to serve as the director of national intelligence,  Anthony Blinken to serve as secretary of state, Lloyd Austin to serve as secretary of defense and Alejandro Mayorkas to serve as the Department of Homeland Security secretary.

ABC News has obtained a copy of Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas’ prepared opening statement ahead of his delivery, showing he’s expected to call the Jan. 6 Capitol Siege “horrifying” and pledge to prevent another. If confirmed, Mayorkas would be the first Latino and immigrant in the position.

“If I should have the honor of being confirmed, I will do everything I can to ensure that the tragic loss of life, the assault on law enforcement, the desecration of the building that stands as one of the three pillars of our democracy, and the terror felt by you, your colleagues, staff, and everyone present, will not happen again,” Mayorkas is expected to say.

As Biden is sworn in on Wednesday, he will have no cabinet nominees confirmed.
 
By contrast, when Trump was sworn in, a GOP-controlled Senate had three nominees ready on Inauguration Day, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the time blamed Democrats for the low number. On then-President Barack Obama’s first day in office, he had seven nominees confirmed by a Democrat-controlled Senate.

The 2021 committees are ramping up for Biden’s confirmation hearings at the same time as Trump’s impeachment trial is expected to start — with Pelosi expected to send the article by the end of the week — a challenge for the Senate, which is also reeling from the attack on the U.S. Capitol less than two weeks ago.

Jan 19, 10:51 am
Schumer could be Senate majority leader by Wednesday afternoon

By Wednesday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer could effectively be the new Senate Majority Leader.

Schumer is expected to meet with his outgoing GOP counterpart, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who hasn’t been in the minority since 2015, later Tuesday. The two are expected to discuss organizing a 50-50 Senate where Democrats hold the majority status by virtue of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking ability, Trump’s impending impeachment trial and the need to expedite Biden’s Cabinet nominations.

Sources tell ABC News Georgia Sen.-elects Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff could be ready to be sworn in as early as Wednesday.

Gabriel Sterling, the state’s now-famous voting systems manager, tweeted last week that his office will review the final certifications Tuesday, adding, “Hoping there are no issues.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Ratffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, will then sign their certificates and a representative of the governor must then physically deliver those results to the secretary of the Senate — required in Senate rules — to make the two election outcomes official and trigger the swearing-in process.

Meanwhile, in California, former Secretary of State and Sen.-elect Alex Padilla appears to be on track to be sworn in on Inauguration Day, filling the seat left vacant by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Padilla’s office is also tentatively tracking a Wednesday swearing-in, a spokesperson told ABC News.

Once Harris is sworn in as vice president, thereby president of the Senate, and those three senator-elects are sworn in, Schumer will be handed the reins as majority leader.

Jan 19, 10:17 am
Bipartisan congressional leaders accept Biden’s church invitation for Inauguration Day

Biden, the second Catholic to be elected president, has invited the bipartisan congressional leadership to church with him on Wednesday morning ahead of his inauguration, and all parties have accepted, sources tells ABC News.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have separately accepted the invite and plan to attend — a move that is sure to project unity ahead of the official transfer of power.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are also expected to attend.

Punchbowl News first reported the invite.

President Trump is skipping Biden’s inauguration and traditional handover of power at the White House to hold his own sendoff at Joint Base Andrews while he still bears the title of president ahead of noon on Wednesday — making him the first president to skip his successor’s swearing since an impeached Andrew Johnson in 1869 snubbed Ulysses Grant.

Jan 19, 10:05 am
Biden HHS nominee poised to become the first openly transgender federal official if confirmed

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have chosen to nominate Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant Secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, the transition announced Tuesday.

Levine currently serves as secretary of health for Pennsylvania. She would be the first openly transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate, if approved.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond. She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts,” Biden said of Levine in a statement.

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