Joe Biden sworn in as 46th President of the United States

Joe Biden sworn in as 46th President of the United States

Biden swears in
Joe Biden (L), flanked by incoming US First Lady Jill Biden is sworn in as the 46th US President by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Jan 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP)

WASHINGTON: Democrat Joe Biden was on Wednesday (Jan 20) sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. 

With his hand on a five-inch thick heirloom Bible that has been in his family for more than a century, Biden took the oath of office administered by US Chief Justice John Roberts that binds the president to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States".

Biden, 78, became the oldest US president in history at a scaled-back ceremony in Washington that was largely stripped of its usual pomp and circumstance, due both to the coronavirus and security concerns following the Jan 6 assault on the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.

READ: 'Democracy has prevailed': Biden in first speech as US president

The norm-defying Trump flouted one last convention on his way out of the White House when he refused to meet with Biden or attend his successor's inauguration, breaking with a political tradition seen as affirming the peaceful transfer of power.

Trump, who never conceded the Nov 3 election, did not mention Biden by name in his final remarks as president on Wednesday morning, when he touted his administration's record and promised to be back "in some form". He boarded Air Force One for the last time and headed to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida.

Top Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and the party's congressional leaders, attended Biden's inauguration, along with former US Presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton.

READ: 'Time to bring back conviction and common sense': World leaders congratulate US President Biden

READ: Trump leaves White House for the last time as US president

Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, became the first black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice president after she was sworn in by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court's first Latina member.

Biden Inauguration
Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible during the presidential inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington on Jan 20, 2021. (Saul Loeb(Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

Biden takes office at a time of deep national unease, with the country facing what his advisers have described as four compounding crises: The pandemic, the economic downtown, climate change and racial inequality. He has promised immediate action, including a raft of executive orders on his first day in office.

After a bitter campaign marked by Trump's baseless allegations of election fraud, Biden struck a conciliatory tone, asking Americans who did not vote for him to give him a chance to be their president as well.

"To overcome these challenges to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: Unity," he said. "We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this - if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts."

APTOPIX Biden Inauguration
Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle arrive for the presidential inauguration at the US Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden in Washington on Jan 20, 2021. (Photo: AP/Patrick Semansky/Pool)

Biden Inauguration
President Joe Biden talks with former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton after the presidential inauguration at the US Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden in Washington on Jan 20, 2021. (Photo: AP/Patrick Semansky/Pool)

READ: Trump's vice president Pence applauds successor at inauguration

The ceremony on Wednesday unfolded in front of a heavily fortified US Capitol, where a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building two weeks ago, enraged by his false claims that the election was stolen with millions of fraudulent votes.

The violence prompted the Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives to impeach Trump last week for an unprecedented second time.

Thousands of National Guard troops were called into the city after the siege, which left five people dead and briefly forced lawmakers into hiding. Instead of a throng of supporters, the National Mall on Wednesday was covered by nearly 200,000 flags and 56 pillars of light meant to represent people from US states and territories.

US National Guard troops patrol the vicinity of the US Capitol on Jan 20, 2021
US National Guard troops patrol the vicinity of the US Capitol hours before the inauguration of US President Joe Biden in Washington, DC, on Jan 20, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Roberto Schmidt)

READ: In farewell address, Trump urges prayers for next administration without mentioning Biden

READ: Trump's legacy: Big policy changes that often got lost amid the din and scandal

"SOUL OF AMERICA"

Biden's inauguration is the zenith of a five-decade career in public service that included more than three decades in the US Senate and two terms as vice president under former President Barack Obama.

But he faces calamities that would challenge even the most experienced politician.

Biden Inauguration
President Joe Biden is embraced by first lady Jill Biden after he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United at the US Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (Saul Loeb(Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

The pandemic in the United States reached a pair of grim milestones on Trump's final full day in office on Tuesday, reaching 400,000 US deaths and 24 million infections - the highest of any country. Millions of Americans are out of work because of pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions.

Biden has vowed to bring the full weight of the federal government to bear on the crisis. His top priority is a US$1.9 trillion plan that would enhance jobless benefits and provide direct cash payments to households.

READ: Biden plans immediate orders on immigration, COVID-19, environment

READ: Biden's team says US will not lift COVID-19 travel bans, despite Trump's statement

But it will require approval from a deeply divided Congress, where Democrats hold slim advantages in both the House and Senate. Harris was scheduled to swear in three new Democratic senators late on Wednesday, creating a 50-50 split in the chamber with herself as the tie-breaking vote.

Biden will waste little time trying to turn the page on the Trump era, advisers said, signing 15 executive actions on Wednesday on issues ranging from the pandemic to the economy to climate change. The orders will include mandating masks on federal property, rejoining the Paris climate accord and ending Trump's travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries.

Capitol Biden and Kamal families
President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff salute as they arrive ahead of the inauguration of Biden, in Washington on Jan 20, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Capitol guests
Guests are seen on the grassy patch on Capitol Hill before Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US President on Jan 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

Although Biden has laid out a packed agenda for his first 100 days, including delivering 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations, the Senate could be consumed by Trump's upcoming impeachment trial, which will move ahead even though he has left office.

The trial could serve as an early test of Biden's promise to foster a renewed sense of bipartisanship in Washington.

Trump issued more than 140 pardons and commutations in his final hours in office, including a pardon for his former political adviser, Steve Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty to charges that he swindled Trump supporters as part of an effort to raise private funds for a Mexico border wall.

But Trump did not issue preemptive pardons for himself or members of his family, after speculation that he might do so.

Watch our special coverage on the inauguration: 


Source: Reuters

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