This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET’s coverage of the voting in November and its aftermath.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are officially getting sworn in now during the inaugural ceremonies in the nation’s capital. The event, held at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, comes the day after the US surpassed 400,000 deaths related to COVID-19, and follows the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building by supporters of President Donald Trump. The inauguration should be live-streamed by every major news station, in addition to being shared on platforms like Facebook Live, Twitter and C-Span.
Hours after releasing his final list of presidential pardons, Trump departed the White House early Wednesday for Palm Beach, Florida, and will not attend the event. He released his farewell address on Tuesday. Vice President Mike Pence is attending the inauguration.
“It’s a new day in America,” Biden tweeted ahead of the daylong event.
Here’s everything we know about Biden’s inauguration, from the schedule of events, speakers and performances, to the type of security that’ll be deployed.
When and how to watch Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’ inauguration on Wednesday
The swearing-in ceremony 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.
Coverage started as early as 7 a.m. ET with some outlets. Opening remarks historically take place at about 11:30 a.m. ET (8:30 a.m. PT) so if you only want to watch Biden get sworn in, that’s a good time to tune in.
Here are some places to live-stream Biden and Harris’ inauguration.
There will also be a televised virtual parade featuring performances from people throughout the country.
Read more: Trump pardons: Who will get clemency his last day in office, and how pardoning works
Schedule of events on Inauguration Day
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.
- 10 a.m. ET: Our White House: An Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans.
- 11:15 a.m. ET: Swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol West Front.
- 11:30 a.m. ET: Inaugural ceremony, when Biden is sworn in and will give his inaugural address.
- After ceremony: Pass in Review, a long-standing military tradition that reflects the peaceful transfer of power to a new president.
- 2:25 p.m. ET: Arlington National Cemetery Wreath Laying Ceremony. Biden will be joined by former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
- 3:15 p.m. ET: Virtual parade, which will begin with Biden receiving a presidential escort to the White House. The parade will be hosted by actor Tony Goldwyn.
- 8:30 p.m. ET: 90-minute TV special, Celebrating America, hosted by actor Tom Hanks (more below).
Which speakers and celebrities will be there?
Inaugurations typically include appearances by A-list musicians and performers. Politicians and religious leaders — such as archbishops, pastors and rabbis — also usually give speeches.
- Invocation: Rev. Leo O’Donovan
- Poetry reading: Amanda Gorman
- Benediction: Rev. Silvester Beaman
- Pledge of Allegiance: Andrea Hall
This year, there will be a 90-minute TV special hosted by Tom Hanks that starts at 8:30 p.m. ET. Celebrity performances and appearances include:
- Lady Gaga, singing the national anthem. Plus, see her pre-inauguration day look.
- Justin Timberlake
- Garth Brooks
- Jennifer Lopez
- Demi Lovato
- Ant Clemons
- Jon Bon Jovi
- John Legend
- Foo Fighters
- Kerry Washington
- New Radicals
- Bruce Springsteen
What security measures will be in place during the inauguration?
Washington will see today an unprecedented amount of security over concerns from the FBI, local police and other government agencies regarding additional mob violence in response to Trump’s impeachment, ahead of his Senate trial. DC mayor Muriel Bowser has urged people to stay home and participate virtually. Most of downtown Washington and Capitol Hill are closed to the public. Airbnb canceled reservations in the capital to discourage travel to the high-alert area.
The Department of Defense has deployed roughly 25,000 National Guard troops to the nation’s capital, with the FBI vetting troops to guard against threats posed from within the ranks, CNN reported. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported 12 National Guard members were removed from inaugural duties, two for possible right-wing extremist ties. The force complements actions taken by Bowser to declare a pre-emergency disaster for DC, a request Trump approved Jan. 11.
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.
Why isn’t Trump attending Biden’s inauguration?
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 is expected to 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.
Who’s attending the inauguration in person?
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.
What’s the inauguration’s theme this year?
On Jan. 11, 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 are Biden’s top priorities immediately after becoming 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. Biden is also expected to sign a collection of executive orders right after taking office that could include rejoining the Paris climate change accord.
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, he reiterated that promise in his climate plan.