An early-morning stillness gripped the nation’s capital on Wednesday, with armed soldiers encircling the stage where Joseph R. Biden Jr. was set to take the oath of office at noon to become the 46th president of the United States.
President Trump, who largely disappeared from public view after an insurrectionist mob stormed the Capitol, urged on by his baseless claims that the election was stolen, was scheduled to leave the White House shortly after dawn and then fly to Florida.
He will become the first president in more than 150 years not to attend the inauguration of his successor.
Even before Mr. Biden was sworn in, he sought to set a new tone for a nation torn by political strife in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century.
On Tuesday night, for the first time since the coronavirus started its deadly march across the country a year ago, a vigil was held to commemorate the more than 400,000 Americans who have died.
“To heal we must remember,” Mr. Biden said, standing in front of the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial. “It’s hard sometimes to remember. But that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today.”
There were no crowds, just 400 lights flickering in memory of the lives lost.
There was none of the usual buzz of inaugural events as crowds from around the country descend on the National Mall to hear from their new president. In the absence of the usual throngs were security personnel and razor wire.
People were told to stay away.
Instead, a field of 200,000 illuminated flags on the Mall represented the thousands of Americans who could not attend the ceremony, with Washington locked down because of the coronavirus pandemic and domestic security threats after the deadly riot at the Capitol two weeks ago. In a prerecorded farewell address released on Tuesday, Mr. Trump took responsibility for neither.
More than 25,000 National Guard members were deployed to assist in protecting the Capitol and areas in downtown Washington. Police officers and military vehicles guarded closed-off streets and the National Mall and other landmarks, which were closed to the public.
A small, socially distanced audience will watch Lady Gaga sing the national anthem at the swearing-in and performances by Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks. After Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn in at noon, Mr. Biden will deliver his first presidential address.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will unleash a full-scale assault on his predecessor’s legacy on Wednesday, acting hours after taking the oath of office to sweep aside President Trump’s pandemic response, reverse his environmental agenda, tear down his anti-immigration policies, bolster the sluggish economic recovery and restore federal efforts aimed at promoting diversity.
Moving with an urgency not seen from any other modern president, Mr. Biden will sign 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations from the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon, according to the president-elect’s top policy advisers.
Individually, the actions are targeted at what the incoming president views as specific, egregious abuses by Mr. Trump during four tumultuous years. Collectively, his advisers said Mr. Biden’s assertive use of executive authority was intended to be a hefty and visible down payment on one of his primary goals as president: to, as they said Tuesday, “reverse the gravest damages” done to the country by Mr. Trump.
“We don’t have a second to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face as a nation,” Mr. Biden said Tuesday night on Twitter after arriving in Washington on the eve of his inauguration. “That’s why after being sworn in tomorrow, I’ll get right to work.”
Mr. Biden’s actions largely fall into four broad categories that his aides described as the “converging crises” he will inherit at noon Wednesday: the pandemic, economic struggles, immigration and diversity issues, and the environment and climate change.
In the final hours of his term, President Trump rescinded early Wednesday an executive order he had issued years earlier to bar former White House employees from lobbying the government after they leave their jobs.
The order was rescinded around 1 a.m., just after Mr. Trump issued 143 clemency grants to allies, associates and low-level offenders serving lengthy sentences.
The original order issued in 2017 was one of the few concrete steps that Mr. Trump took in his pledge to “drain the swamp.”
It expanded on rules adopted during the Obama administration and included a five-year ban for former officials lobbying the agencies they once worked for.
However, government watchdog groups said that the order did little to end the revolving-door culture of Washington and that the Trump administration was rife with conflicts of interest.
In a report issued just 14 months after Mr. Trump took office, Public Citizen found that as of March 2018, 133 former lobbyists had been appointed to administration jobs. They included 60 people who had lobbied within two years of joining the government, 35 of whom were appointed to oversee the specific topics about which they had previously lobbied.
By revoking his executive order, Mr. Trump is allowing his newly unemployed aides to become lobbyists, or to work for foreign governments.
Hours before President Trump was scheduled to depart from the White House, he bestowed pardons on a roster of corrupt politicians and business executives, including Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist, and Elliott Broidy, one of his top fund-raisers in 2016.
The latest round of clemency grants underscored both how many of his close associates and supporters became ensnared in corruption cases and other legal troubles and his willingness to use his power to help them.
It also represented a final lashing out by Mr. Trump at a criminal justice system that he had come to view as unfairly hounding him and his allies. It came as the Senate prepared for his second impeachment trial, on a charge of inciting the deadly riot at the Capitol this month, and could be another factor in influencing whether Republicans join Democrats in voting to convict him.
Mr. Trump retains the power to issue further pardons, including theoretically for himself and members of his family, until noon Wednesday. But officials said they did not anticipate him doing so.
Others on the list included Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, 66, a major Democratic donor and eye doctor who ran a series of clinics in Florida that fraudulently told Medicare patients that they had eye diseases and then performed medically unnecessary tests and procedures, falsely billing the federal government at least $42 million, according to prosecutors. His remaining prison sentence was commuted.
The latest round of pardons and commutations — 143 in total — followed dozens last month, when Mr. Trump pardoned associates like Paul Manafort and Roger J. Stone Jr., and four Blackwater guards convicted in connection with the killing of Iraqi civilians.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration will be largely virtual, with events scaled back or moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic. The security measures in Washington after the attack at the Capitol this month further reduced the number of people who will attend in person.
The inauguration will begin around 11 a.m. Eastern. Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take the oath of office just before noon on the West Front of the Capitol, where Mr. Biden will also deliver an address to the nation for the first time as president.
Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem at the swearing-in, and Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks are also set to perform.
Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris, along with their spouses, Jill Biden and Douglas Emhoff, will then conduct a review of the military and visit Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. They will be joined by three former presidents and their wives: Barack and Michelle Obama, George W. and Laura Bush, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Finally, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris will head to the White House. Instead of a parade along Pennsylvania Avenue, a virtual procession will showcase performers and speakers from across the country.
The New York Times will stream the inauguration live, with real-time coverage and highlights from our reporters.
Here’s where else you can watch:
Television networks, including ABC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, Fox, NBC and MSNBC, will air live coverage of the inauguration.
The Roku Channel will carry streams from several news outlets.
The streaming network Newsy will carry the inauguration via a number of cable providers and streaming platforms.
At 8:30 p.m. Eastern, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute event that will include remarks from Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris and performances from Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Ant Clemons and Jon Bon Jovi, as well as Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen.
The New York Times will stream the prime-time celebration live.
ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC will air the special on television.
If you don’t have cable television, Amazon Prime Video, Microsoft Bing, NewsNOW from Fox, AT&T DirecTV and U-verse will also be carrying the special live.
Amr Alfiky/The New York Times
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Amr Alfiky/The New York Times
The time has finally come for President Trump to find a permanent space at Mar-a-Lago for his $50,000 room-size golf simulator, not to mention the 60-inch television he proudly displayed above the dining room table, his collection of Brioni suits and the first lady’s matching Louis Vuitton luggage she has hauled around the globe.
By Wednesday at 12:01 p.m., hours after Mr. Trump himself plans to leave Washington, all the first family’s stuff will have followed him out the White House door, en route to his new home in Palm Beach, Fla. And by the end of the day Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, will arrive to a deep-cleaned living quarters where their bags will be unpacked, their furniture arranged and their favorite foods stocked in the fridge.
It’s the awkward pas de deux performed every four or eight years when one family moves in and another moves out, an undertaking carried out by the 90-person White House residence staff in about five hours. A complicated, highly choreographed process is done on a tight schedule that often requires boxing up whatever has been left unpacked — some outgoing presidents are more prepared to leave the executive mansion than others.
This year, people involved in the process said, moving day also involves additional cleaning and safety precautions because of the coronavirus.
“The staff is sleeping on cots, in stairwells,” said Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to the first lady Laura Bush, including during the 2009 handoff to the Obamas. No matter how prepared they are, she said, “it’s always chaotic.”
It’s all part of a White House ritual that Mr. Trump hasn’t completely disrupted. But as with everything else in politics and in life, this year will be more difficult than most.
When Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivers his inaugural address on Wednesday afternoon, he will do so at a time of deep national anxiety. The coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate the United States, with more than 400,000 deaths reported so far. Americans are still reeling from the riot at the Capitol, and many are facing economic uncertainty.
Mr. Biden will likely address the grim circumstances at his inauguration, a time when leaders generally try to unify the country during the peaceful transfer of power. The incoming president is hardly the first to take office at a time of great upheaval in American history.
Here are excerpts from inauguration speeches given by past presidents who were facing difficult circumstances during their inaugurations.
In 1865, Lincoln gave his second inaugural address, speaking about the Civil War as it was nearing an end. In his remarks, Mr. Lincoln denounced slavery and looked to a future where the nation would overcome its divisions.
“Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
When Roosevelt was inaugurated for the first time in 1933, the Great Depression was into its fourth year, and America was facing an unprecedented economic collapse. In his address, Roosevelt seemed to prepare Americans for an expansion of federal power during his presidency.
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”
John F. Kennedy
Kennedy took office in 1961, at the peak of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. He also faced problems at home: Racial unrest was rippling across the South and in the North’s large cities. Kennedy shaped his address to lift up and inspire Americans, but he also sent a message to the rest of the world about American values.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility— I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
When President Trump promised to put an end to “American carnage” in his inauguration speech on Jan. 20, 2017, former President Barack Obama looked on from a seat just beyond Mr. Trump’s left shoulder.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who attended that inauguration as the former vice president four years ago, will take his own oath of office on Wednesday. But Mr. Trump has announced that he will be absent. And while that decision is a break from the norm, it is not without precedent: A handful of American presidents have also missed the inaugurations of their successors.
“It’s usually a sign that American society is in the midst of major political feud,” the presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said. “The fact that the incoming and outgoing presidents can’t shake hands and co-participate in an inauguration means that something’s off-kilter in the democracy.”
That was the case for John Adams, his son John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson — three presidents who were bitterly at odds with those who unseated them. All three men served no more than one term. And Johnson, like Mr. Trump, was impeached.
When the presidency of John Adams ended in 1801, it could have gone badly. The United States was in its infancy and had never seen a head of state transfer power to a political opponent — in this case, Thomas Jefferson, whose republican vision for the country was at odds with the strong central government favored by Adams.
The election of 1800 was hard fought, marred by personal attacks and deadlocked for weeks. Democracy seemed so wobbly during the voting process that civil war was a distinct possibility. But in the end, Jefferson claimed the presidency peacefully. And on Inauguration Day, Adams left Washington quietly, before dawn, in a stagecoach bound for Baltimore.
John Quincy Adams, the sixth American president, followed in his father’s footsteps when he declined to attend the swearing-in of the man who had unseated him: the populist Andrew Jackson.
When Lady Gaga performs the national anthem at President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, it will not be the first time that the singer and the politician have shared the spotlight.
Lady Gaga campaigned in November with Mr. Biden in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state that he won. The evening before Election Day, she performed at the Biden campaign’s final rally.
Her appearance drew criticism from President Trump’s campaign, which accused her of being an anti-fracking activist, and from Mr. Trump himself.
“Lady Gaga is not too good,” Mr. Trump said at a rally in November. “I could tell you plenty of stories. I could tell you stories about Lady Gaga. I know a lot of stories.” He did not elaborate.
The singer’s ties to Mr. Biden date back to his time as vice president, when they worked together on the White House’s campaign to fight sexual assault on college campuses.
In 2016, Mr. Biden introduced Lady Gaga at the Academy Awards, where he plugged the campaign against sexual assault and she performed her song “Til It Happens to You,” made for a documentary about that issue. The two later appeared together to promote the White House’s campaign. In 2017, after Mr. Biden left office, they also filmed a public service announcement about sexual assault.
“I’m here today with not only a great friend, but a fierce advocate,” Mr. Biden said in the video.