(Want to get this newsletter in your inbox? Here’s the sign-up.)
Good evening. Here’s the latest.
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. became the 46th president of the United States, promising to move the nation forward on a path of unity.
“Democracy has prevailed,” President Biden said during a sober, no-surprises inaugural event. At 78, he is the oldest president in the country’s history.
Ms. Harris’s ascension makes her the first woman, first Black American and first person of South Asian descent to be vice president. She is now the highest-ranking woman in U.S. history.
“Don’t tell me things can’t change,” Mr. Biden said in his speech.
The inauguration marked the return of pomp and circumstance to Capitol Hill, just two weeks after a pro-Trump mob attacked the building. The newly installed president and vice president stood before the very entrance where insurrectionists stormed the building.
The 59th inaugural festivities were anything but normal. The departing president did not attend; attendance was limited and seats were well spaced; and Washington looked like an armed camp, with some 25,000 National Guard troops joining thousands of police officers, and a wide swath of downtown blocked off amid fears of further violence.
The right-wing protests that law enforcement had prepared for were not in evidence. And while former President Donald Trump’s backers in the far-right media — notably One America Network and Rush Limbaugh — continued to carry his false message of a stolen election, there were signs of change.
In dozens of conversations on social media sites like Gab and Telegram, members of the Proud Boys, a group once among Mr. Trump’s staunchest supporters, have begun calling him a “shill” and “extraordinarily weak.” Mr. Trump has done nothing to help members of the group charged in the Capitol riot.
QAnon supporters, a pro-Trump conspiracy, are also in disarray. “Wake up,” one wrote in a chat room. “We’ve been had.”
The body language at the inauguration was watchful and relaxed, with bipartisan cordiality on view. Three former presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — mingled. The departing vice president, Mike Pence, received gentle applause when he stepped into the spotlight, and he and Ms. Harris chatted.
Lady Gaga, wearing an oversized gold dove pin, belted the national anthem into a gold microphone; Jennifer Lopez performed the folk song “This Land Is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” (with a brief snippet of her hit “Let’s Get Loud”); and Garth Brooks sang an a cappella version of “Amazing Grace.”
With no inaugural balls, the party continues tonight with a prime-time special starting at 8:30 p.m. Eastern hosted by Tom Hanks.
But first, Mr. Biden got to work.
Hours after taking the oath of office, Mr. Biden unleased a full-scale assault on his predecessor’s legacy, signing 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations from the Oval Office. The orders target four categories: the pandemic; economic struggles; immigration and diversity issues; and the environment and climate change, including rejoining the Paris climate agreement.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki plans to hold her first daily briefing with reporters on the new Biden-Harris administration’s agenda at 7 p.m.
Despite the urgent crises at home, some foreign policy experts predict the new U.S. leader will take an energetic role in foreign policy.
Mr. Trump was present for none of it.
Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, left the White House around 8:30 a.m. for Florida, where they plan to live at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
In his final hours of office, Mr. Trump doled out 73 pardons and 70 commutations. Among the recipients were Steve Bannon, his former campaign chief; Anthony Levandowski, who stole driverless-car trade secrets from Google; and the rapper Lil Wayne, who faced prison time after pleading guilty to a gun charge. Here’s a full list.
Within days, the Senate is expected to open the former president’s impeachment trial on the charge that he incited an insurrection by encouraging the mob that attacked the Capitol, in an attempt to stop the formal count of Electoral College votes ratifying his defeat.
A financial minefield also awaits Mr. Trump, compounded by the Capitol riot and his baseless claims of election fraud.
“Have a good life,” he told supporters at Joint Base Andrews before his final trip on Air Force One.
Here’s what else you need to know:
Law enforcement arrested a leader of the Proud Boys, the far-right nationalist group that promotes political violence, in connection with the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Prosecutors said Joseph Biggs, above in the plaid jacket, led dozens of the group’s members in an angry march toward — and into — the halls of Congress. The arrest, in Florida, came only hours before the inauguration. At least five other members of the group are also facing charges relating to the attack.
A new variant of the coronavirus variant has emerged closer to home.
The mutant, which belongs to a lineage known as CAL.20C, seemed to have popped up in California in July but lain low until November. The variant may be more transmissible; it showed up in more than half of samples tested last week by researchers in Los Angeles.
The days are dark, the pandemic seemingly never ending, but experts say that fantasizing, forward thinking and using one’s imagination are powerful tools for getting people through difficult times.
“The important thing about imagination is that it gives you optimism,” said Martin Seligman, the director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.