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Biden Takes Helm as US President       01/20 14:32

   Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on 
Wednesday, summoning American resilience to confront a historic confluence of 
crises and urging people to come together to end an "uncivil war" in a nation 
deeply divided after four tumultuous years

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the 
United States on Wednesday, summoning American resilience to confront a 
historic confluence of crises and urging people to come together to end an 
"uncivil war" in a nation deeply divided after four tumultuous years

   Declaring that "democracy has prevailed," Biden took the oath at a U.S. 
Capitol that had been battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks 
earlier.

   On a chill Washington morning dotted with snow flurries, the quadrennial 
ceremony unfolded within a circle of security forces evocative of a war zone 
and devoid of crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Biden gazed 
out over 200,000 American flags planted on the National Mall to symbolize those 
who could not attend in person.

   "The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been 
heeded. We've learned again that democracy is precious and democracy is 
fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed," Biden said. "This 
is America's day. This is democracy's day. A day in history and hope, of 
renewal and resolve."

   Biden never mentioned his predecessor, who defied tradition and left town 
ahead of the ceremony, but his speech was an implicit rebuke of Donald Trump. 
The new president denounced "lies told for power and for profit" and was blunt 
about the challenges ahead.

   Central among them: the surging virus that has claimed more than 400,000 
lives in the United States, as well as economic strains and a national 
reckoning over race.

   "We have much to do in this winter of peril, and significant possibilities. 
Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build and much to gain," 
Biden said. "Few people in our nation's history have been more challenged, or 
found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we're in now."

   Biden was eager to go big early, with an ambitious first 100 days that 
includes a push to speed up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations to 
anxious Americans and pass a $1.9 trillion virus relief package. On Day One, he 
planned a series of executive actions to roll back Trump administration 
initiatives and also planned to send an immigration proposal to Capitol Hill 
that would create an eight-year path to citizenship for immigrants living in 
the country illegally.

   The absence of Biden's predecessor from the inaugural ceremony, a break from 
tradition, underscored the rift to be healed.

   But a bipartisan trio of three former presidents -- Bill Clinton, George W. 
Bush and Barack Obama -- were there to witness the ceremonial transfer of 
power. Trump, awaiting his second impeachment trial, was at his Florida resort 
by the time the swearing-in took place.

   Biden, in his third run for the presidency, staked his candidacy less on any 
distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters 
around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. 
Biden did not mention Trump by name but alluded to the rifts his predecessor 
had helped create.

   "I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also 
know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the 
American ideal that we all are created equal and the harsh, ugly reality of 
racism, nativism, fear, demonization that have long torn us apart," Biden said. 
"This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path 
forward and we must meet this moment as the United States of America."

   Biden came to office with a well of empathy and resolve born by personal 
tragedy as well as a depth of experience forged from more than four decades in 
Washington. At age 78, he was the oldest president inaugurated.

   More history was made at his side, as Kamala Harris became the first woman 
to be vice president. The former U.S. senator from California is also the first 
Black person and the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice 
presidency and the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government.

   The two were sworn in during an inauguration ceremony with few parallels. 
Tens of thousands of troops were on the streets to provide security precisely 
two weeks after a violent mob of Trump supporters, incited by the Republican 
president, stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of 
Biden's victory.

   "Here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use 
violence to silence the will of the people," Biden said. "To stop the work of 
our democracy. To drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will 
never happen. Not today, not tomorrow. Not ever. Not ever."

   The tense atmosphere evoked the 1861 inauguration of Lincoln, who was 
secretly transported to Washington to avoid assassins on the eve of the Civil 
War, or Roosevelt's inaugural in 1945, when he opted for a small, secure 
ceremony at the White House in the waning months of World War II.

   But Washington, all but deserted downtown and in its federal areas, was 
quiet. And calm also prevailed outside heavily fortified state Capitol 
buildings across nation after the FBI had warned of the possibility for armed 
demonstrations leading up to the inauguration.

   The day began with a reach across the political aisle after four years of 
bitter partisan battles under Trump. At Biden's invitation, congressional 
leaders from both parties bowed their heads in prayer in the socially distanced 
service just a few blocks from the White House.

   Biden was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts; Harris by Justice Sonia 
Sotomayor, the first Latina member of the Supreme Court. Vice President Mike 
Pence, standing in for Trump, sat nearby as Lady Gaga, holding a golden 
microphone, sang the National Anthem accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps band.

   When Pence, in a last act of the outgoing administration, left the Capitol, 
he walked through a door with badly cracked glass from the riot two weeks ago. 
Later, Biden, Harris and their spouses were joined by the former presidents to 
lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Ceremony.

   Biden was also to join the end of a slimmed-down inaugural parade as he 
moves into the White House. Because of the pandemic, much of this year's parade 
was to be a virtual affair featuring performances from around the nation.

   In the evening, in lieu of the traditional glitzy balls that welcome a new 
president to Washington, Biden will take part in a televised concert that also 
marks the return of A-list celebrities to the White House orbit after they 
largely eschewed Trump. Among those in the lineup: Bruce Springsteen, Justin 
Timberlake and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

   This was not an inauguration for the crowds. But Americans in the capital 
city nonetheless brought their hopes to the moment.

   "I feel so hopeful, so thankful," said Karen Jennings Crooms, a D.C. 
resident who hoped to catch a glimpse of the presidential motorcade on 
Pennsylvania Avenue with her husband. "It makes us sad that this is where we 
are but hopeful that democracy will win out in the end. That's what I'm 
focusing on."

   Trump was the first president in more than a century to skip the 
inauguration of his successor. After a brief farewell celebration at nearby 
Joint Base Andrews, he boarded Air Force One for the final time as president.

   "I will always fight for you. I will be watching. I will be listening and I 
will tell you that the future of this country has never been better," said 
Trump. He wished the incoming administration well but never mentioned Biden's 
name.

   The symbolism was striking: The very moment Trump disappeared into the 
doorway of Air Force One, Biden emerged from Blair House, the traditional guest 
lodging for presidents-in-waiting, and into his motorcade for the short ride to 
church.

   Trump did adhere to one tradition and left a personal note for Biden in the 
Oval Office, according to the White House, which did not release its contents. 
And Trump, in his farewell remarks, hinted at a political return, saying "we 
will be back in some form."

   Without question, he will shadow Biden's first days in office.

   Trump's second impeachment trial could start as early as this week. That 
could test the ability of the Senate, poised to come under Democratic control, 
to balance impeachment proceedings with confirmation hearings and votes on 
Biden's Cabinet choices.

   Biden planned a 10-day blitz of executive orders on matters that don't 
require congressional approval -- a mix of substantive and symbolic steps to 
unwind the Trump years. Among the planned steps: rescinding travel restrictions 
on people from several predominantly Muslim countries; rejoining the Paris 
climate accord; issuing a mask mandate for those on federal property; and 
ordering agencies to figure out how to reunite children separated from their 
families after crossing the border.

 
 
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