Thirty-four years after first seeking the job, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th US president Wednesday, drawing a curtain on the most tumultuous administration of modern times and charting a new course to tackle Covid-19 and unite a splintered nation.
Outgoing President Donald Trump entered the White House four years ago as a brash billionaire outsider, but he is being ousted by a polar opposite whose devotion to service, deep knowledge of Washington, and personal scars will unquestionably set a different tone.
Joe, a 78-year-old former vice president and longtime senator, will take the oath of office at noon (17:00 GMT) on the US Capitol’s West front, the very spot where pro-Trump rioters clashed with police two weeks ago before storming Congress in a deadly insurrection.
While a transition of power will occur much as it has for more than two centuries, this inauguration is unlike any other.
Official 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 this month’s attack.
And with the pandemic raging, the general public is essentially barred from attending the swearing-in, leading to unprecedented optics: an empty National Mall on Inauguration Day. Inauguration eve is normally a time of massive crowds gathering in the capital, but Biden, joined by Vice
President-elect Kamala Harris, was almost alone at the reflecting pool.
On the Mall’s grassy expanse, some 200,000 flags have been planted to represent the absent crowds at the inauguration.
Trump, who has not appeared in public for a week, broke days of silence with a pre-recorded farewell video address on Tuesday.
For the first time, he asked Americans to “pray” for the success of the incoming administration — a change from months spent persuading his Republican followers that the Democrats cheated their way to election victory.
Trump, whose efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and console its victims have been widely criticized, will snub Biden by not attending the inauguration.
In one of his last acts, before he flies to Florida on Wednesday morning, Trump issued scores of pardons to people convicted of crimes or facing charges, including 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 of pardons released by the White House early Wednesday