From left, Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol for  the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, DC.  During today's inauguration ceremony Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS)

Joe Biden inaugurated as 46th president as Trump era comes to an end

Todd Spangler

Detroit Free Press

Taking over the reins of government at a time of extreme partisanship and violence and with a pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans still raging, Joe Biden was sworn in as president at 11:49 a.m. outside the U.S. Capitol, formally ending Donald Trump’s single term and becoming the nation’s 46th chief executive.

His swearing in came in a historic ceremony just two weeks after a pro-Trump mob, some of whom were armed, stormed the Capitol near the spot where Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts read the oath of office to Biden,

With the occasional snowflake falling on a 40-degree day in Washington, the scaled down ceremony took place with a smaller-than-usual crowd. Lady Gaga sang the National Anthem and Jennifer Lopez sang “America, the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land.” Because of concerns about COVID-19, the 1,000 guests were masked and kept socially distant.

At 78, Biden becomes the oldest president in U.S. history. He is also one of the most politically experienced, having served eight years as vice president to former President Barack Obama and as a U.S. senator from Delaware for 36 years. It is a stark contrast to Trump, a reality TV show host and businessman who entered office with no experience but upset Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016 and, while losing to Biden, still won more votes nationwide — 74 million — than any other presidential candidate in history except Biden, who received the backing of 81 million Americans.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Biden’s inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Biden’s inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)

Early Wednesday, with less than 12 hours remaining in his presidency, Trump issued a wave of commutations and pardons, including a commutation of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s 25-year prison sentence on corruption charges. While Kilpatrick, who had served seven years, had his supporters, including current Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, a close ally of Biden’s, Trump’s action appeared counterintuitive to his complains following the election that Detroit was steeped in corruption.

It falls to Biden to attempt to unify the country with partisan rancor at a high point and many voters worried about more violence. On Wednesday, some 25,000 National Guard troops secured the Capitol and there were concerns of possible attacks in other areas.

The usual pomp was scaled down, given the threat and the pandemic. Attendance was limited to about 1,000 guests, in part to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19, the virus which has killed more than 400,000 Americans in the last year.

Kamala Harris, who until this week had served as senator from California, was sworn in as vice president, becoming the first woman, the first Black and the first Indian-American to hold that role.

Three former presidents were in attendance: Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as was Vice President Mike Pence. But Trump departed Washington earlier in the day for his home in Florida and became the first president since Andrew Johnson in 1869 to snub his successor’s inauguration.

At no point during the transition period did he meet with Biden, as is customary. As he departed Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday morning, Trump said, “I wish the new administration great luck and great success.” But he also cast doubt on the new administration, touting his achievements and fretting that Biden could push for moves that he believes could hurt business. “I hope they don’t raise your taxes,” he said. “But if they do, I told you so.”

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Marine One as they depart the White House on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Trump is making his scheduled departure from the White House for Florida, several hours ahead of the inauguration ceremony for his successor Joe Biden, making him the first president in more than 150 years to refuse to attend the inauguration. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Marine One as they depart the White House on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Trump is making his scheduled departure from the White House for Florida, several hours ahead of the inauguration ceremony for his successor Joe Biden, making him the first president in more than 150 years to refuse to attend the inauguration. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Trump indicated he plans to have a political future, however, saying cryptically, “We will be back in some form.” But it’s unclear whether he can continue to keep a hold on the Republican Party in the wake of his loss and a second impeachment, on an accusation he incited the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress set about finalizing the vote for Biden, as required by the Constitution. The Senate is expected to try Trump on the charge; while it can no longer remove him from office, it could bar him from holding political office.

And Trump’s admonition aside, there have been many indications the American business community is ready to cut ties with the former president, especially in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack. Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, put out a statement just before Biden’s taking the oath, saying, “This is a new day for America. This new administration brings a new commitment to healing our country — healing from the deadly pandemic that has claimed the lives of 400,000 of our fellow Americans and healing from the deep divisions that have torn us apart.”

Republicans congratulated Biden as well.

“The peaceful transfer of power is the hallmark of American democracy and I congratulate both President Biden and Vice President Harris on this momentous day,” said U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids, who last week became one of only 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the riot at the Capitol. “At a time when our country faces significant challenges and division, I urge the Biden Administration to lead with unity and thoughtful governance.”

Biden and Harris, meanwhile. promised to hit the ground running: The new administration has said it will press a new Democratic-led Congress to pass a $1.9-trillion package to spur 100 million vaccines to prevent COVID-19 in its first 100 days and help schools and businesses reopen.

Biden also said he would take several unilateral actions immediately to undo orders made by Trump, including overturning a ban on travel to the U.S. from some majority Muslim countries and rejoining the Paris accord to cut greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. He has also promised to ask Congress for immigration reform which would put undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship and end family separations at the southern border. Early Wednesday, he said his administration would also review mile-per-gallon standards for cars and light trucks which Trump had said he would roll back.

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