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Biden inauguration: Start time, security measures, celebrity performances, how to watch

CNET logo CNET 1/15/2021 Abrar Al-Heeti
Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as president and vice president, respectively, on Jan. 20, 2021. Getty Images © Provided by CNET Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as president and vice president, respectively, on Jan. 20, 2021. Getty Images

The 59th inaugural ceremony will be held on Jan. 20 -- just five days away -- at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. The event will swear in President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Due to surging COVID-19 cases, the Jan. 6 attack  by President Donald Trump's supporters on the US Capitol and the refusal of Trump himself to attend the ceremony -- an announcement Trump made days before his impeachment on Jan. 13 -- the scaled-back ceremony will take a different approach than in years past.

Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie © Getty Images

Concerns over the potential for more violence and security at the inauguration have prompted the National Guard to deploy 20,000 troops to the US Capitol in the wake of the riot, and with the threat of more violent crowd actions in response to Trump's impeachment by the House of Representatives for a second time. 

Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, has asked the US Interior Department to "cancel any and all public gathering permits in the District of Columbia, and deny any applications for a public gathering during the period Jan. 11 through Jan. 24." Airbnb has canceled reservations in Washington to discourage travelers to the high-alert area.

"In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind," Trump said in a statement Wednesday.

Here's everything we know about Biden's inauguration. This story was recently updated with new information.

Read moreCould Trump pardon himself before leaving office? What to know

What time will Biden's inauguration start?

The inauguration is scheduled to take place Wednesday, Jan. 20, on the west front of the US Capitol. Each elected US president's term starts at noon ET that day, according to the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. The president-elect is required to take the oath of office before assuming duties. Following the presidential swearing-in ceremony, Biden will deliver his inaugural address. 

How can I watch Biden being sworn in as US president?

No exact air time has been announced just yet, though opening remarks historically take place around 11:30 ET/8:30 a.m. PT. 

Biden's inauguration website will livestream the proceedings.

The inauguration is also likely to be livestreamed by every major news station, in addition to being shared on platforms like Facebook Live, Twitter and YouTube. It will be impossible to miss, but we'll update this information when we know more.

Biden's inaugural committee said on Jan. 4 that there will be a televised virtual parade featuring performances from people throughout the country. "The parade will celebrate America's heroes and reflect on the diversity, heritage and resilience of our country," the committee said in a tweet.

Following the storming of the US Capitol, DC's mayor is encouraging Americans to participate virtually

Which celebrities and speakers will be there? 

While speakers haven't been announced yet, inaugurations typically include appearances by A-list musicians and performers. This year, there will be a 90-minute TV special hosted by Tom Hanks that starts at 8:30 p.m. ET. 

Celebrity performances include:

  • Lady Gaga, singing the national anthem
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Jennifer Lopez 
  • Demi Lovato
  • Ant Clemons
  • Jon Bon Jovi
  • John Legend
  • Foo Fighters
  • Bruce Springsteen

 Politicians and religious leaders -- including archbishops, pastors and rabbis -- also usually give speeches.

What kind of security measures will be in place during the inauguration?

Security has become a growing concern following the Capitol riots. In a letter, Bowser urged the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate with the departments of Defense and Justice, Congress and the Supreme Court to "establish a security and federal force deployment plan for all federal property." She also sent a letter to Trump requesting that he declare a pre-emergency disaster for DC. 

"This is necessary because the inauguration poses several unprecedented challenges that exceed the scope of our traditional planning processes: the COVID-19 pandemic, and of course, the domestic terror attack on the United States Capitol," Bowser said.

Trump approved the request Monday evening.

The Secret Service is calling it a "zero fail mission," vowing the security will be "robust" with layered fencing and vehicle checkpoints

On Jan. 11, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration warned airline travelers that threatening safety could lead to jail time or a $35,000 fine. This followed reports that every airline flying out of the DC area had experienced incidents recently. Airlines also rolled out heightened security after the riots and will continue to work alongside law enforcement agencies. 

US House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent letters to multiple travel and lodging companies Jan. 14, including Hilton, Expedia and Greyhound, to make sure their services aren't used to "facilitate violence or domestic terrorism" in the coming days. 

Biden will no longer take Amtrak to the inauguration due to security reasons, and the inauguration rehearsal that was scheduled for Sunday will be rescheduled for Monday due to security threats across the country, Politico reported.

The entire National Mall in DC will also reportedly be closed amid security concerns. 

Can I get tickets to the inauguration? 

Traditionally, members of the public request free tickets through the office of their US senator or representative, but not this year. Due to COVID-19 concerns, Americans won't be able to get tickets, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced in mid-December. 

"The JCCIC, in consultation with diversified public health and medical experts and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, has determined that this global pandemic and the rise in COVID-19 cases warranted a difficult decision to limit attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live audience that resembles a State of the Union," said JCCIC Chairman Roy Blunt. "We are also working on enhanced opportunities to watch the ceremonies online, in addition to the traditional televised national broadcast."

This time around, invitations to members of Congress will be limited to themselves and one guest. Commemorative ticket bundles and program packets will be made available to congressional offices for constituents following the ceremonies.

Read more: Ahead of inauguration, Airbnb to cancel DC reservations

Is President Trump attending? 

Trump tweeted on Jan. 8 that he wouldn't be in attendance. "To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the inauguration on January 20th," he said. Trump's Twitter account has since been permanently banned, in the wake of the insurrection on Jan. 6, a move that Trump is widely agreed to have incited amid false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

That's "one of the few things he and I have ever agreed on," Biden said Jan. 8. "It's a good thing, him not showing up."

Vice President Mike Pence will reportedly attend.

Former presidents -- including the unseated president as well as presidents from previous terms -- traditionally attend the inauguration of the president-elect, but there have been exceptions. According to the White House Historical Association, John Adams didn't attend Thomas Jefferson's inauguration, and John Quincy Adams didn't attend the inauguration of successor Andrew Jackson.

What's the theme of the inauguration?

On Monday, the Biden Inaugural Committee tweeted that the theme is America United, adding: "At a time of unprecedented crisis and deep divisions, America United reflects the start of a new journey to restore the soul of America, bring the country together, and create a path to a brighter future."

What's Biden's top priority when he becomes president? 

The president-elect says one of his biggest priorities is working to tackle COVID-19. He has set a goal of 100 million vaccine jabs in the first 100 days of his administration. Biden and Harris have already announced the formation of a COVID-19 advisory board to help shape the upcoming administration's response to the pandemic. The board consists of 13 public health experts and will be led by co-chairs Dr. David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner; Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former US surgeon general; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a researcher at Yale University.

Biden set the framework for a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill Jan. 14 that includes a third stimulus check for up to $1,400 per person. His proposal also calls for more federal unemployment benefits, raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour and extends eviction protections.

He also unveiled a plan that aims to ensure the US achieves a 100% clean-energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050. During the presidential debates, Biden promised to get the US back into the Paris climate deal, which the US withdrew from under Trump. He reiterated that promise in his climate plan.


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