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Live updates: Biden’s inauguration day ends with a wave and a massive firework show

  • January 21, 2021

USA Today is covering the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris live. Refresh often for updates.

After three campaigns for president, the day Biden finally became president ended with a bang. 

President Joe Biden ended his inauguration day watching a massive firework show above the National Mall with his family from the Blue Room Balcony of the White House.

U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden watch fireworks at the White House on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Biden became the 46th president of the United States earlier today during the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

Singer Katy Perry performed her song “Firework” as the first family looked on, the stunning display lighting up the Washington Monument. 

Vice President Kamala Harris and the second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, watched from the Lincoln Memorial, where she earlier had spoken.  

The show was the finale to the “Celebrating America” primetime special that replaced the usual inaugural balls, which were scrapped this year due to COVID-19 concerns.

— Savannah Behrmann

Biden: ‘I will give my all to you’

In a coda to his inauguration speech, President Joe Biden made one more plea for the nation to come together during an appearance Wednesday night at the Lincoln Memorial.

“This is a great nation. We’re good people,” Biden said during the “Celebrating America” program that was the final event of a day of inaugural activities. “To overcome the challenges in front of us requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: Unity.”

Calling the pandemic and the economic, racial justice and climate crises threats to the democracy, Biden cast the current moment among past chapters in history that divided the nation. Behind him was the statue of President Abraham Lincoln, who tried to keep the nation from being torn apart over the Civil War. Not far away on the National Mall was the memorial to Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King.

Biden said the question is whether the nation can “meet the moment like our forebears had.”

“I believe we must, and I believe we will,” Biden said, before delivering a final promise: “I will give my all to you.”

— Maureen Groppe

Biden won’t address re-election plans until later

Hours after Biden became the oldest person to be sworn in as president, spokeswoman Jen Psaki was not specific about whether Biden plans to run for re-election.

Psaki said Biden, 78, will wait until “sometime into his first term to speak more about his political plans moving forward.”

Former President Donald Trump filed paperwork to run for re-election on his first day. 

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a friend of Biden’s, recently told Politico that Biden “is planning to run again.”

Psaki told reporters Wednesday that Biden’s focus is “not on politics.”

“It is on getting to work and solving the problems of the American people,” she said.

— Maureen Groppe

Biden to put pending federal rules on hold

President Joe Biden is putting pending federal regulations on hold until his new administration gets a chance to review them.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain issued a memo Wednesday to department heads and agencies advising them that pending federal regulations should be put on hold until they are reviewed. Any proposed rules that have been sent to the Federal Register but not yet published are to be withdrawn until they are approved and reviewed.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in December that the freeze would stop so-called “midnight” regulations. One pending rule she cited is a proposal by Donald Trump’s Labor Department that would make it easier for companies to treat employees as independent contractors. Critics argued the change could impact workers because many independent contractors don’t receive overtime pay or health benefits.

The move is also part of Biden’s plan to unwind his predecessor’s policies. In his first hours as president, Biden is expected to sign 15 executive orders, including rejoining the Paris climate accord and reversing travel restrictions on several predominantly Muslim countries.

Klain’s memo advises postponing for 60 days the starting date of any new rules that have been published but not yet taken effect so that they can be further reviewed.

Michael Collins and Courtney Subramanian

Democrats officially control Senate, House and White House for first time in a decade

The swearing-in of two new Georgia Democrats in the Senate marks the first time the party will control the White House and both chambers of Congress in a decade.

Georgia’s Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were sworn into office by Vice President Kamala Harris, one of her first official duties in the role.

The two new Democrats will give the chamber a 50-50 split, which effectively would give Democrats the majority because Harris – as President of the Senate – would be the tie-breaking vote.

Harris, who resigned the Senate this week ahead of her inauguration, also swore in her replacement: Democrat Alex Padilla.

The power shift marks the first time Democrats have controlled the upper chamber since 2014 and the first time in a decade that Democrats will control the House, Senate and White House. The last time was in 2011 under former President Barack Obama.

Christal Hayes

George W. Bush lauds Rep. Jim Clyburn as ‘savior’ after pivotal SC primary endorsement led to Biden election

The highest-ranking Black member of Congress says former President George W. Bush lauded his role as a “savior” in helping get President Joe Biden elected to the White House.

U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said Wednesday on a call with reporters that the Republican former president told him ahead of the inaugural ceremony that, if he had not given Biden the boost he did ahead of South Carolina’s primary, “we would not be having this transfer of power today.”

Clyburn says Bush went on to say that Biden was “the only one who could have defeated the incumbent president,” Donald Trump. Trump and the Bush family didn’t get along.

Clyburn’s pivotal endorsement ahead of South Carolina’s Democratic primary helped propel Biden to the nomination. Biden won South Carolina by a margin of nearly 30 points.

Clyburn, South Carolina’s only Democratic representative in Congress, is the dean of the state’s Democrats and the third-ranking member of the U.S. House.

Associated Press 

Biden administration releases names of acting agency heads

Hours after President Joe Biden was sworn into office, White House officials released the names of the administration’s acting agency heads as the president’s nominees await Senate confirmation.

The move allows Biden to install members of his own team rather than rely on any of former President Donald Trump’s political appointees left within the federal government beyond Jan. 20.

Biden’s political appointees have faced severe delays in the weeks between the president’s election victory and the inauguration. Trump had his defense and homeland secretaries confirmed when he took office while former President Barack Obama had six of his nominees in place by the time he was sworn in.

The Senate began confirmation hearings just before inauguration for five of Biden’s Cabinet picks, including Janet Yellen, nominee for Treasury Secretary, Tony Blinken, nominee for secretary of state, Avril Haines, nominee for director of national intelligence, Lloyd Austin, nominee for Defense secretary and Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for Homeland Security secretary.

The list confirmed an earlier report by USA TODAY that Biden planned to tap career Justice official Monty Wilkinson to serve as acting attorney general.

Among those named, nearly all of whom are career civil servants, are:

  • David Norquist, Department of Defense
  • David Cohen, Central Intelligence Agency
  • Dan Smith, Department of State
  • Norris Cochran, Department of Health and Human Services
  • David Pekoske, Department of Homeland Security
  • David Huizenga, Department of Energy
  • Monty Wilkinson, Department of Justice
  • Al Stewart, Department of Labor
  • Andy Baukol, Department of Treasury
  • Lora Shiao, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
  • Maria Pagan, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
  • Rob Fairweather, Office of Management and Budget

Courtney Subramanian

Biden arrives at the White House for the first time as president

President Joe Biden was escorted to the White House for the first time Wednesday afternoon, arriving without the thousands of spectators that historically line the streets for a traditional Inauguration Day parade.

Biden held the hand of his wife Jill Biden as he walked one block from 15th Street to the White House. The couple waved at the small crowd that was in attendance. Biden ran over to greet television personality Al Roker at one point.

“It feels great. It feels good,” Biden said.

Another reporter asked whether he has a message for former President Donald Trump. Biden did not respond.

 When they got to the White House door, the Bidens embraced each other as a military band played “Hail to the Chief.” They then entered with their family and others.

Because of health precautions during the coronavirus pandemic, a virtual “Parade Across America” replaced the traditional inauguration parade. The virtual event kicked off as Biden arrived at the White House.

Trailing the Bidens in the escort was music from the marching band of the University of Delaware, Biden’s alma mater, and Howard University, where Vice President Harris graduated.

Joey Garrison 

Pence: ‘There’s no place like home’

In his first public remarks since leaving office, former Vice President Mike Pence congratulated the new occupants of the Oval Office before thanking Donald Trump “for making America great again.”

“Thank you, President Trump, for all you’ve done for this country,” an emotional Pence said as a spoke to supporters in his hometown of Columbus, Ind., Wednesday afternoon.

Pence also thanked Trump for the privilege of serving as his vice president, a task that became especially challenging in the final days when Trump unsuccessfully pressured him to try to block Congress from accepting the electoral votes.

Pence acknowledged all those who have lost their lives from COVID-19, saying “our hearts will always be with families that have lost loved ones in this global pandemic over the ordeal of this past year.”

But Pence, who headed the administration’s coronavirus task force, said that he will always be proud of the administration’s response to the pandemic. Those actions, he said, have brought the nation to “the beginning of the end.”

Pence repeatedly fought back tears as he thanked friends, family and staff. Several of his aides flew back with him to Indiana, taking the same plane that took the Pences to Washington four years ago.

Pence announced that he will soon be resettling in his home state, where he served as governor and as a member of Congress after a career as a radio talk show host.

“While we just come back to Indiana today, I’ve already promised Karen we’ll be moving back to Indiana come this summer,” Pence said of his wife. “There’s no place like home.”

Maureen Groppe

Joe Biden: New answer to a Super Bowl trivia question

Joe Biden’s ascension to the presidency expands the answer to a great football trivia question: How many colleges have produced both U.S. presidents and Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks?

The answer is now five, thanks to Biden’s alma mater, the University of Delaware; the Blue Hens also produced quarterback Joe Flacco, who led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl win over San Francisco in 2013.

Other schools that have produced presidents and Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks:

  • University of Michigan (Gerald Ford and Tom Brady):
  • The United States Naval Academy (Jimmy Carter and Roger Staubach);
  • Stanford (Herbert Hoover, Jim Plunkett, and John Elway);
  • Miami of Ohio (Benjamin Harrison and Ben Roethlisberger).

—  David Jackson

Biden, joined by former presidents, honors the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Joined by three of his predecessors, newly sworn-in President Joe Biden led a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in his first trip as commander in chief.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris saluted the tomb around 2:45 p.m. ET Wednesday as a solider performed “Taps,” the traditional call played at military funerals and flag ceremonies, on the bugle.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, along with their spouses, joined Biden and Harris for the ceremony. Donald Trump, who left Washington for Florida before the inauguration, was not present. 

Joey Garrison 

Biden, Harris enjoy levity with congressional leaders

A traditional gift-giving ceremony reflected the joshing ease that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris enjoy with leaders of the House and Senate – a sharp contrast with former President Donald Trump.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., began his comments by mentioning each participant by title: “Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Dr. Biden, Mr. President.” But Biden interrupted, inviting him to be more casual.

“No, Joe, you’re Mr. President,” Hoyer replied.

Then first lady Jill Biden interjected.

“Dr. Biden, he makes you call him Mr. President?” Hoyer asked. “Marriage is about to get rocky, I can tell.”

Hoyer joined House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in presenting framed photographs of the inauguration ceremony to Biden and Harris less than two hours afterward.

“That was quick,” Biden said, as he walked up to the easel.

“Modern technology, right?” McCarthy said. “It’s a good picture, too.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a fierce Republican partisan from Kentucky, presented the Democrat Harris with a U.S. flag that flew atop the Capitol during the inauguration ceremony. But McConnell couldn’t let the moment pass without noting that both she and Biden had served in the Senate without serving in the House.

“With all due respect to our distinguished speaker and our colleagues from the House, I have to note not only did we just swore in a son and daughter of the Senate to these offices, but indeed both of these former senators skipped the House altogether,” McConnell said to chuckles.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., presented two custom made, Lenox crystal vases. One of the White House was for Biden and one of the Capitol was for Harris. But she noted they are heavy, weighing 32 pounds each.

“Jill, I know, is very strong and could pick them both,” Klobuchar said.

The gift-giving usually occurs during a luncheon that was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., opened the session by saying he had little time to choose a painting that traditionally provides a poignant image for the event.

But he had little time to choose a painting, so Jill Biden recommended one from Robert Seldon Duncanson, a Black painter. The landscape completed in 1859 featured a rainbow on the right side

“The rainbow is always a good sign,” Blunt said.

Bart Jansen

Biden signs inaugural proclamation, nomination documents

Still at the Capitol after being sworn into office, Biden signed the inaugural proclamation around 1:25 p.m. ET, formalizing him as the 46th president, as well as documents to officially make his Cabinet nominations.

The signings are part of the procedural actions all presidents take after assuming office.

Next Biden and Harris will review the readiness of military troops from the east front of the Capitol.

Biden and Harris will then travel to Arlington National Cemetery where they will join former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Joey Garrison

Biden ends 21-minute inaugural address: ‘Thank you, America’

Biden’s inaugural address clocked in at 21 minutes and ended with a call for Americans to meet the nation’s challenges with “purpose and resolve” as he thanked the country.

“With purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our times, sustained by faith, driven by conviction,” Biden said. “My God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America.”

The speech may have seemed short, but it’s in line with the length of recent inaugural addresses.

Trump’s 2017 inaugural speech was 15 minutes. Like Biden, Barack Obama spoke for 21 minutes in his 2009 inaugural address and 18 minutes in 2013. George W. Bush spoke for 15 minutes in 2001. And Bill Clinton’s inaugural addressed clocked in at 22 minutes in 1997 and just 14 minutes in 1993.

Joey Garrison 

Social media accounts change over to Biden administration

As President Joe Biden was giving his inaugural address, accounts on various social media sites officially changed from the Trump administration over to the Biden administration – marking the end of the 45th presidency and the start of the 46th.

On Twitter, @Transition46 now owns the White House account.

Twitter transferred @POTUS from former President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden.

@SenKamalaHarris has become @VP, and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is under @FLOTUS.

Also, a new account @SecondGentleman has been created for Doug Emhoff, the country’s first-ever Second Gentleman.

Before Trump’s personal account was permanently banned from Twitter Jan. 8, the @POTUS account was filled with retweets of the personal account. In his final days in office, Trump couldn’t use the official account either after he attempted to use the @POTUS account, which Twitter said was an attempt to evade a suspension and violated its rules.

The Trump administration’s @POTUS account publicly archive is @POTUS45 and Obama’s account was archived as @POTUS44.

Additionally, on Instagram, Biden now owns the @POTUS account.

— Savannah Behrmann, Kelly Tyko 

President leaves a note for Biden before departing for Mar-a-Lago

The Resolute Desk is an iconic fixture in the White House Oval Office.

“We are just temporary occupants of this office,” President Barack Obama wrote to Trump in his own letter in 2017. “That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions – like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties – that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.”

— David Jackson

Biden to be sworn in at noon

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is hours away from being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States during a ceremony on the U.S. Capitol steps embodying the peaceful transition of power that stands as a hallmark of American democracy.

But this will be a presidential inauguration like no other.

Instead of the throngs of supporters hailing from all corners of the country to celebrate Biden’s ascension, the new president will raise his right hand in front of a sparse audience of well-wishers that will not include Donald Trump – the first time since 1869 that an outgoing president has refused to attend his successor’s inauguration.

Instead of thousands of people gathering on the National Mall for the festivities, the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue will be replaced by a virtual parade that will be televised while thousands of National Guard troops patrol the nation’s capital.

And instead of basking in the glow of his convincing electoral triumph, Biden, 78, will be taking over the nation as millions question his legitimacy two weeks after a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol building over baseless claims of election fraud.

President-elect Joe Biden wants to get back into the Paris Agreement to fight climate change on the first day of his term.

More:Joe Biden ran on bringing back normalcy. With COVID, riots and a looming impeachment trial, that task just got tougher

All this as Biden will emphasize the need for the country to come together. The theme for the inauguration will be “America United.”

Shortly before noon on the steps of the west entrance of the Capitol, Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, becoming the first woman, as well as the first Black or Asian American, to assume the post. 

Then at roughly noon, Biden will put his hand on the Bible as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office. His inaugural address will lay out his vision for solving the nation’s problems, like a spiraling COVID pandemic and a reeling economy.

While Trump won’t attend, departing Vice President Mike Pence will be there.

More:Farewell address: Trump stresses record, condemns Capitol riot, does not name Biden

Pence has chosen to welcome the incoming president rather than join a planned send-off for Trump earlier in the morning at Joint Base Andrews where, the departing president will climb aboard Air Force for one final trip to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Despite the turmoil surrounding the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies Wednesday, there will be some familiar moments: a national anthem (sung by Lady Gaga), a poetry reading (by Amanda Gorman) and a musical performance (by Jennifer Lopez).

— Ledyard King

Biden’s inaugural address to push unity to meet ‘extraordinary challenges’

Addressing a deeply divided nation, Biden will call for unity in his inaugural speech Wednesday in an appeal to “bring the country together during an unprecedented moment of crisis,” advisors to the president-elect said.

The speech, echoing the themes the Democratic former vice president campaigned on, is expected to run 20 to 30 minutes, according to a source familiar with the speech.

After he’s sworn in as the 46th president, Biden will address a nation on edge — one in the thick of a global pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans and struggling to recover economically.

The speech comes amid heightened security concerns after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress counted electoral votes. Surveys have found more than 60% of Republicans who supported Trump falsely believe Trump was the rightful winner of the election.

Trump, who leveled baseless claims of voter fraud to unsuccessfully overturn the election, is skipping the inauguration. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend.

Biden’s remarks will “be a forward-looking vision for his presidency while addressing the moment we are living in as a country,” advisors said, noting the speech is built around a theme of unity.

–Joey Garrison

How does the public feel about Biden and Harris? Keener on the former

Kamala Harris is taking on her new role with less public support than Joe Biden has, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

While 58% of U.S. adults surveyed this month approved of the job Biden is doing, views of Harris were more divided. Half said she’s qualified to serve as president, while 47% said she is not.

Four years ago, 54% of those surveyed said Mike Pence is qualified to be president if something were to happen to Donald Trump.

Most Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents – 82% — said Harris could step in, if needed, for Biden. But nearly the same share of Republicans and Republican leaders said she is not qualified.

Most Democrats said Harris will have the right amount of influence in the new administration. But seven out of ten Republicans said she will have too much.

—Maureen Groppe

Kamala Harris will swear in new senators as VP

In her first day as vice president — the first who is a woman, who is Black, who is of South Asian descent — Kamala Harris will swear in three new senators.

Her replacement, Democrat Alex Padilla, will become California’s first Hispanic senator. Padilla and Georgia Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the state’s first Black and Jewish senators, respectively, will be sworn in at about 4:30 p.m.

With these three new Senators sworn in, Harris will officially be the tie-breaking vote in a 50-50 split Senate.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

Harris will deliver some of her first remarks as Vice President Wednesday evening at the Lincoln Memorial as part of the “Celebrating America” inaugural program.

Harris is to be sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and will take her oath on two Bibles. One belongs to Thurgood Marshall, who was the Supreme Court’s first Black justice and a civil rights icon. The other Bible belongs to Regina Shelton, a neighbor and nursery school operator who was like a second mother to Harris and her sister Maya growing up.

—Rebecca Morin and Michael Collins

Trump departs as Biden starts his day

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have left Joint Base Andrews at 9 a.m. on Air Force One, headed for Florida and their home at Mar-a-Lago following a speech to supporters.

President-elect Joe Biden, meanwhile, is attending  mass at St. Matthews Cathedral in Washington before traveling to the U.S. Capitol for the start of his inauguration ceremony at noon ET.  

‘We are not a regular administration’

Trump bid farewell to supporters and family Wednesday for one final time as commander-in-chief in a nine-minute speech recalling his administration’s successes over the last four years.

“We were not a regular administration,” he told a crowd of supporters, family and staff at Joint Base Andrews, located in Maryland just outside Washington, D.C.

“What we’ve done has been amazing by any standard,” Trump said, recounting the highlights of his administration he has often noted during campaign rallies – the creation of Space Force, changes to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the 2017 tax bill.

President Donald Trump gestures as he boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. Trump is en route to his Mar-a-Lago Florida Resort.

The event had the look and feel of a Trump campaign rally, with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” blaring from loudspeakers as Marine One arrived early Wednesday morning.

The president’s children and their spouses as well as his chief of staff Mark Meadows were all in attendance, lined up along the side of the podium as the president spoke. Trump took the stage as “Hail to the Chief” played over a 21-gun salute and the crowd cheered, “we love you!”

“I wish the new administration great luck and great success. I think they’ll have great success,” Trump said of incoming President Joe Biden, never mentioning his successor by name. “They have the foundation to do something really spectacular.”

“I hope they don’t raise your taxes,” Trump said in one of his only references to Biden. “But if you do, I told you so.”

First Lady Melania Trump also spoke, telling the crowd that being first lady was her “great honor.”

The president’s departure ceremony bucked more than 150 years of tradition of attending his successor’s inauguration. He plans to be at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., when Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president at noon.

“I will always fight for you. I will be watching and I will be listening. And I will tell you that the future of this country has never been better,” he said as he concluded his remark before boarding Air Force One.

“So just a goodbye. We love you. We will be back in some form,” Trump told the crowd, thanking Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence as well as members of Congress. “Have a good life. We will see you soon.”

The crowd looked on as Trump took off as president for one final time on Air Force One, with Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” playing over the loudspeaker.

— Courtney Subramanian and John Fritze

Pence gets brief nod from Trump

After four years of intense loyalty followed by a major break with his boss, Vice President Mike Pence got a brief nod from President Donald Trump in the outgoing president’s final public remarks.

“I want to thank our vice president, Mike Pence and Karen,” Trump said near the end of about 10 minutes of comments before he got on plane to Florida.

Trump spoke at a farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews that Pence did not attend. Unlike Trump, Pence will be at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony.

‘Man without a home’:What the future may hold for Vice President Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence finishes a swearing-in ceremony for senators in the Old Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.

Pence’s relationship with Trump has been strained since the vice president concluded he could not intervene to stop Congress from accepting the electoral votes on Jan. 6.

After mentioning Pence, Trump also thanked Congress.

“Because we really worked well with Congress — at least certain elements of Congress,” he added as a made a “so-so” gesture with his hand while supporters laughed.

The Democrat-controlled House, with the support of 10 Republicans, voted to impeach Trump last week for inciting insurrection. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday, said the mob who swarmed the Capitol as Congress was counting the elector votes was “provoked by the president.”

— Maureen Groppe

Trump leaves White House for last time

Trump left the White House shortly after 8 a.m. ET Wednesday on his way to the Maryland base – taking his final flight as president on Marine One.

Trump emerged onto the South Lawn with first lady Melania Trump at 8:12 a.m. ET.

Speaking briefly with reporters, Trump said it was the “honor of a lifetime” to serve as president. Marine One lifted off the South Lawn at 8:18 a.m. ET and toured over the National Mall before heading toward Maryland.

Trump, who is skipping the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, is heading to Joint Base Andrews, where he’ll take part in a ceremony, and then on to Florida. Trump is expected to make remarks at the suburban Maryland military base.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump leave the White House for the last time in his term Jan. 20, 2021.

The optics of the departure from the White House was highly unusual: A sitting president generally travels to the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration of a successor. Then, the former president usually walks down the stairs with the new president and takes off from there, a potent symbol of the peaceful handover of power.

Trump, the first president in more than 150 years to refuse to attend the inauguration of his successor, is heading for his Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago, which he dubbed the “Winter White House.” The White House has invited hundreds of supporters to a pomp-and-circumstance ceremony at the air base, one expected to feature a red carpet and military color guard – and perhaps a preview of another Trump presidential run in 2024.

— John Fritze and David Jackson

Biden asks surgeon general to resign

President-elect Joe Biden asked for the resignation of Surgeon General Jerome Adams. The request is seen as one of the first steps Biden will take to chart a new course in the federal government’s response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Adams confirmed Wednesday morning that he’d “been asked by the Biden team to step down as Surgeon General” and that it has “been the honor of my life to serve this Nation, and I will do all I can to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve and maintain health.”

In December, Biden announced that Vivek Murthy would reprise his role as surgeon general in the new administration. Trump fired Murthy at the beginning of his administration in 2017.

Adams came under frequent criticism for mixed messaging around the coronavirus pandemic, claiming early in the pandemic that the flu was a greater risk than the coronavirus and later for comments about social distancing in communities of color.

—Matthew Brown

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