This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET’s coverage of the voting in November and its aftermath.
This Wednesday, Jan. 20, the US will hold its 59th inaugural ceremony to swear in President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. The event, held at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, will be unlike other presidential swearing-in ceremonies in memory, marked by surging COVID-19 cases, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building by supporters of President Donald Trump, and Trump’s plan to not attend the swearing-in ceremony.
With growing concerns over security at the inauguration, the Department of Defense is expected to deploy up to 25,000 National Guard troops to the nation’s capital. The FBI is vetting troops to guard against threats posed from within the ranks, CNN reported.
The FBI, local police and other government agencies anticipate further attempts at violent crowd actions in response to Trump’s impeachment, ahead of his Senate trial. The city’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, has asked the US Interior Department to deny permits for all public gatherings from Jan. 11 until Jan. 24, and Airbnb has canceled reservations in Washington to discourage travel to the high-alert area.
“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” Trump said in a statement Jan. 13.
Here’s everything we know about Biden’s inauguration. This story was recently updated with new information.
Here’s when Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’ inauguration will start
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. 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. In anticipation of being sworn in, Harris is expected to resign her Senate seat on Monday. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla will fill her seat.
Read more: Could Trump pardon himself before leaving office? What to know
How to watch Biden become US president live
It depends on which news station you’re watching the coverage on — some will start as early as 7:00 a.m. ET, while others start at a later time. 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. Biden’s inauguration website will livestream the proceedings, and the event will be broadcast live on YouTube.
The inauguration should be livestreamed by every major news station, in addition to being shared on platforms like Facebook Live, Twitter and C-Span. It’ll be nearly impossible to miss.
Biden’s inaugural committee said on Jan. 4 that there’ll be a televised virtual parade featuring performances from people throughout the country. “The parade will celebrate America’s heroes and reflect on the diversity, heritage and resilience of our country,” the committee said in a tweet.
Following the storming of the US Capitol, DC’s mayor is encouraging Americans to participate virtually.
Which speakers and celebrities will be at the inauguration?
Inaugurations typically include appearances by A-list musicians and performers. 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
- Justin Timberlake
- Garth Brooks
- Jennifer Lopez
- Demi Lovato
- Ant Clemons
- Jon Bon Jovi
- John Legend
- Foo Fighters
- Kerry Washington
- Bruce Springsteen
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
Security measures in place during the inauguration
Roughly 25,000 members of the National Guard will be on duty at Biden’s inauguration, The Washington Post reported Jan. 16. The force complements actions taken by Bowser to declare a pre-emergency disaster for DC, a request Trump approved Jan. 11.
The Secret Service is calling it a “zero fail mission,” vowing the security will be “robust” with layered fencing and vehicle checkpoints. The entire National Mall in DC will also reportedly be closed amid security concerns.
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.
Will Trump attend Biden’s and Harris’ 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’ll be 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.”
Biden’s top priorities immediately after he becomes 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.