Washington DC gears up for an inauguration like no other

January 19, 2021
US President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday.
US President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — When US President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday he'll be facing a to-do list like no other: Combat the pandemic, rescue the economy and heal a deeply divided nation.

And when he takes the oath of office, he'll do so in a city under siege — not from a foreign enemy but from angry supporters of Donald Trump.

That all adds up to a presidential inauguration like no other. Drama and some traditions of course but there'll also be the tightest security in living memory — and only 1,000 guests instead of the usual 200,000.

The pandemic and the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol have changed everything. Washington, DC, is on virtual lockdown even as the preparations are under way.

US flags are being placed in the National Mall where visitors would normally stand. They represent the thousands of Americans who have lost their lives to Covid-19.

Two hundred officers from the New York City Police Department are to assist with security. The authorities are determined to prevent a repeat of the violence seen at the Capitol.

Over 25,000 National Guard troops will be the backbone of the security deployment. Again taking no chances, they have all been vetted by the FBI after concerns were raised about an "internal threat".

All 50 US states are also on alert for possible violent protests.

And what of the outgoing President? Donald Trump and his wife Melania are defying tradition refusing to attend the ceremony of his successor...possibly concentrating on moving house to Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Melania will be exiting the White House with the lowest favorability rating of her tenure as first lady, according to a new CNN poll.

At 47%, more people have an unfavorable view of the first lady now than at any point since CNN first asked about views of her in February 2016.

The poll, conducted by SSRS for CNN, puts Trump's favorable rating at 42%, with 12% of those asked answering they are unsure of their feelings about the first lady.

Before her departure she has written an essay on the restoration projects she oversaw while first lady.

She makes note of the Queen’s Bathroom renovation, the “President’s Elevator,” the marble flooring on the State Floor entry and outside of the East Room, and the Bowling Alley (where she had the balls redone with lettering “The President’s House,” not “The People’s House.”) She notes ongoing restoration of “priceless Zuber wallpaper in the Family Dining Room,” not yet completed.

Finally, she acknowledges the build of the now infamous White House Tennis Pavilion, a multimillion dollar, privately funded project she tweeted about more than once during the throes of the pandemic.

With the exception of the new grout in the tiles on the State Floor marble, and the Rose Garden, the other projects she mentions in the essay all areas of the White House that are not accessible to the public and can only be used by the first family.

President Trump will leave Washington, DC, on Wednesday morning. Eager for a final taste of the pomp of being president, Trump has asked for a major send-off on Inauguration Day before one last presidential flight to Palm Beach.

President Trump is expected to leave from Joint Base Andrews early Wednesday morning and arrive at his Palm Beach resort by the time Biden is being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.

Trump has told people, CNN's Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins have reported, that he dislikes the idea of leaving Washington as an ex-president and hates the thought of having to ask Biden to use the plane.

Trump's departure aboard Marine One from the White House South Lawn will likely be visible and audible to the Bidens, who will spend the night before the inauguration at Blair House, across Pennsylvania Ave. from the executive mansion.

Its use was offered to them by the State Department rather than the Trumps, who refuse to make contact with the incoming president and first lady.

Trump and the first lady's departure from the White House South Lawn is expected to look relatively normal. Mustering a large crowd at the White House would be difficult given the intense security in Washington.

Once Trump arrives at Joint Base Andrews a military-style sendoff and a crowd of supporters can be expected. This event is expected to be like a state visit departure event, an official told CNN. Some of the pomp and circumstance under consideration for the ceremony includes a color guard, military band, 21 gun salute and red carpet.

Presidents typically hold some type event at Andrews before leaving Washington. Ex-President Obama spoke to a crowd of former staffers in a hangar in 2017.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate is preparing for Trump's second impeachment trial following the House's impeachment vote last week. And both chambers are waiting for the arrival of the Biden administration.

There are five confirmation hearings on Tuesday for secretary of State, secretary of Treasury, CIA director, Defense secretary and secretary of Homeland Security. Aides say it is possible that the Senate could move as soon as Wednesday to confirm some of them to their posts hours after Biden is sworn in. Again, this takes agreement from all 100 senators. We should have more timing guidance Tuesday when the Senate returns. — Agencies

January 19, 2021
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