5 min read

Wake Up To Politics - January 20, 2021

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, January 20, 2021. Today is Inauguration Day. Election Day 2022 is 657 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,385 days away. Have questions or comments? Email me.

Trump era comes to a close as Biden is sworn in

President Donald J. Trump entered Washington four years ago as an outsider, decrying “American carnage” and standing virtually alone on the political stage. He will depart today largely the same way, with few friends or allies in a city that never fully adapted to his unruly style.

He will be succeeded at noon by Joseph R. Biden Jr., a man in many ways his opposite, a creature of Washington who served in the U.S. Senate for 36 years before spending eight as vice president. Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States alongside Kamala D. Harris, who will become the first woman and the first person of color to serve as vice president.

Trump will not be in attendance at the ceremony, as he departs Washington for his new home in Florida earlier in the morning, making him the first outgoing president since Andrew Johnson in 1869 to skip his successor’s inauguration. However, the ceremony itself will be a visceral reminder of the turbulence of the Trump era. It will be a slimmed-down affair, with only about 2,000 attendees instead of the usual 200,000 — a result of both the coronavirus pandemic that Trump has been accused of ignoring and the security threats that Trump has been said to incite by the months he spent denying his loss to Biden.

For Biden, the day may not look as he imagined it, but it will be the culmination of a decades-long quest for the presidency that included three separate bids for the position. He will launch his tenure in earnest shortly after taking the oath of office, issuing 17 executive actions, many of which will reverse decisions made during Trump’s term.

Among Biden’s initial actions will include orders rejoining the World Health Organization and the Paris climate agreement; revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline; requiring masks in all federal buildings and on all federal lands; reversing the “travel ban” from majority-Muslim countries signed by his predecessor; and ending the construction of Trump’s signature border wall.

Meanwhile, Trump handed down his final presidential actions early this morning, when he had less than 12 hours on the job. He issued 73 pardons and 70 commutations, granting clemency to allies such as former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, and former New York Observer editor Ken Kurson. Rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black also received a pardon and a commutation, respectively.

According to Gallup, Biden enters office with a 57% favorability rating, close to his personal high, while Trump exits with a 34% job approval, the lowest single rating of his presidency. Trump’s popularity — already historically low — has plummeted since the January 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, in which a group of his supporters violently stormed the building in an attempt to interrupt the certification of Biden’s victory.

The Capitol riot continues to reverberate throughout Washington, not just through the 25,000 National Guard troops that have been dispatched to protect Biden’s inaugurations after the security failures earlier this month. Trump will also stand trial in the weeks ahead for his conduct relating to the attack, as the Senate considers the lone article of impeachment approved by the House last week, which charged Trump with “incitement of insurrection.”

Trump is the first president to be impeached twice and will be the first former president to undergo an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the top Senate Republican, has not ruled out voting to convict Trump, a decision that could lead to the outgoing president being found guilty and possibly barred from future office. In remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday, McConnell said that the mob that attacked the Capitol was “provoked by the president and other powerful people.”
It is unknown if Biden will mention the recent attack or upcoming impeachment trial in his inaugural address, which is expected to last between 20 and 30 minutes. According to advisers to the president-elect, the speech will focus on national unity and “the need to bring the country together during an unprecedented moment of crisis,” which were also leading themes of his campaign.

After delivering his debut presidential speech, Biden will move into the White House. In a matter of hours, the Trump family’s belongings will have been moved out of the building and replaced by boxes of Biden’s personal effects. The White House will also be deep-cleaned before the Bidens move in, a sign of the two presidents’ differing views on COVID-19 and an explicit wipe-away of the slate before the dawn of a new administration.


All times Eastern.

President-elect Joe Biden, incoming First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and incoming Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will kick off Inauguration Day by attending a church service with congressional leaders of both parties at 8:45 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. They will arrive at the U.S. Capitol at 10:30 a.m. and participate in the inaugural ceremony, which will begin around 11:15 a.m.

At 12 p.m., Biden and Harris will be sworn in as president and vice president, and Biden will deliver his inaugural address. At 1:40 p.m., Biden and Harris will review the readiness of military troops in a pass in review, before participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at 2:25 p.m. with most of the living former presidents.

The new First and Second Families will then receive a Presidential Escort to the White House at 3:15 p.m. Biden will sign executive orders and other presidential action at 5:15 p.m. and swear in his initial appointees in a virtual ceremony at 5:45 p.m. The Bidens, Harris, and Emhoff will participate in the virtual “Celebrating America” inaugural program at 8:45 p.m., with Biden and Harris deliver remarks. Finally, to end the day, Joe and Jill Biden will make an appearance from the Blue Room Balcony of the White House at 9:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will hold a farewell ceremony at 8 a.m. at Joint Base Andrews before flying to Palm Beach, Florida. They will land at around 11 a.m., an hour before Trump’s term in office comes to a close.

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence will attend the inaugural ceremony.

Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 7 p.m.

The Senate will convene at 4:30 p.m. Following a prayer and the pledge of allegiance, Sen.-designate Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Sens.-elect Jon Ossoff (D-GA) Raphael Warnock (D-GA) will be sworn in. With the swearings-in of Padilla, Ossoff, and Warnock, plus Harris as vice president, control of the 50-50 Senate will swing towards the Democrats.

The Senate will then adopt a resolution electing Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) as president pro tempore. After Leahy is sworn in, the Senate will adopt a resolution notifying the House and the president of Leahy’s appointment, followed by the adoption of a resolution appointing the Secretaries for the Majority and Minority. The two Leaders will then deliver remarks, after which any senator will be able to speak for up to 10 minutes each.
The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court is not in session.

Thanks for reading! If you aren’t already subscribed to Wake Up To Politics, you can sign up and learn more here.

You can also support my work by sending a donation, buying WUTP merchandise, or listening to my podcast.