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Scrutiny of Epstein’s death and co-conspirators intensifies

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Epstein

NEW YORK — Amid revelations about the circumstances around Jeffrey Epstein’s death , federal authorities have intensified parallel inquiries into what went wrong at the Manhattan jail where he was behind bars and who now may face charges for assisting or enabling him in what authorities say was his rampant sexual abuse of underage girls.

One of the new details provided by people familiar with the Metropolitan Correctional Center was that one of Epstein’s guards the night he died in his cell wasn’t a regular correctional officer.

Serene Gregg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3148, told The Washington Post that one of the guards was a fill-in who had been pressed into service because of staffing shortfalls.

In addition, Epstein was supposed to have been checked on by a guard about every 30 minutes. But investigators have learned those checks weren’t done for several hours before Epstein was found, according to one of the people familiar with the episode. That person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A second person familiar with operations at the jail said Epstein was found with a bedsheet around his neck. That person also wasn’t authorized to disclose information about the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Epstein, 66, was found Saturday morning in his cell at the MCC, a jail previously renowned for its ability to hold notorious prisoners under extremely tight security. At the time of his death, he was being held without bail and faced up to 45 years in prison on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges unsealed last month.

Attorney General William Barr at a police conference on Monday said that he was “frankly angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner.”

He added: “We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.”

At the same time, Barr warned on Monday that any co-conspirator in the ongoing criminal probe “should not rest easy. … The victims deserve justice, and they will get it.”

In the days since Epstein’s death while awaiting charges that he sexually abused underage girls, a portrait has begun to emerge of Manhattan’s federal detention centre as a chronically understaffed facility that possibly made a series of missteps in handling its most high-profile inmate.

Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found in his cell a little over two weeks ago with bruises on his neck. But he had been taken off that watch at the end of July and returned to the jail’s special housing unit.

The manner in which Epstein killed himself has not been announced publicly by government officials. An autopsy was performed Sunday, but New York City Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said investigators were awaiting further information.

The Associated Press does not typically report on details of suicide, but has made an exception because Epstein’s cause of death is pertinent to the ongoing investigations.

In the criminal case, authorities are most likely turning their attention to the team of recruiters and employees who, according to police reports, knew about Epstein’s penchant for underage girls and lined up victims for him. The Associated Press reviewed hundreds of pages of police reports , FBI records and court documents that show Epstein relied on an entire staff of associates to arrange massages that led to sex acts.

If any Epstein assistants hoped to avoid charges by testifying against him, that expectation has been upended by his suicide.

“Those who had leverage as potential co-operators in the case now find themselves as the primary targets,” said Jacob S. Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor.

___

Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker contributed to this report.

Jim Mustian, Michael R. Sisak And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press


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Biden revokes Trump report promoting ‘patriotic education’

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President Joe Biden revoked a recent Trump administration report that aimed to promote “patriotic education” in schools but that historians mocked and rejected as political propaganda.

In an executive order signed on Wednesday in his first day in office, Biden disbanded Donald Trump’s presidential 1776 Commission and withdrew a report it released Monday. Trump established the group in September to rally support from white voters and as a response to The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which highlights the lasting consequences of slavery in America.

In its report, which Trump hoped would be used in classrooms across the nation, the commission glorifies the country’s founders, plays down America’s role in slavery, condemns the rise of progressive politics and argues that the civil rights movement ran afoul of the “lofty ideals” espoused by the Founding Fathers.

The panel, which included no professional historians of the United States, complained of “false and fashionable ideologies” that depict the country’s story as one of “oppression and victimhood.” Instead, it called for renewed efforts to foster “a brave and honest love for our country.”

Historians widely panned the report, saying it offers a false and outdated version of American history that ignores decades of research.

“It’s an insult to the whole enterprise of education. Education is supposed to help young people learn to think critically,” said David Blight, a Civil War historian at Yale University. “That report is a piece of right-wing propaganda.”

Trump officials heralded the report as “a definitive chronicle of the American founding,” but scholars say it disregards the most basic rules of scholarship. It offers no citations, for example, or a list of its source materials.

It also includes several passages copied directly from other writings by members of the panel, as one professor found after running the report through software that’s used to detect plagiarism.

Matthew Spalding, the panel’s executive director and a vice-president at the conservative Hillsdale College, denied any wrongdoing, saying the panel’s members “contributed our own work and writing, under our own names, to the 1776 Report, which was an advisory report to the president.”

Spalding and other commission leaders did not immediately respond to other criticism levelled against the report.

In his order dissolving the panel, Biden said it “sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice.”

The American Historical Association condemned the document, saying it glorifies the founders while ignoring the histories and contributions of enslaved people, Indigenous communities and women. In a statement also signed by 13 other academic groups, the organization says the report seeks “government indoctrination of American students.”

The sharpest criticism of the report was directed at its presentation of slavery and race. The report attempts to undermine allegations of hypocrisy against Founding Fathers who owned slaves even as they espoused equality. It also attempts to soften America’s role in slavery and explain it as a product of the times.

“Many Americans labour under the illusion that slavery was somehow a uniquely American evil,” the panel wrote in the 20-page report. “The unfortunate fact is that the institution of slavery has been more the rule than the exception throughout human history.”

Blight, at Yale, compared it to “a sixth or seventh grade kind of approach to history — to make the children feel good.” He added: “But it’s worse than that, because it comes out of an agenda of political propaganda.”

The authors argue that the civil rights movement was distorted to advance programs promoting inequality and “group privilege.” It complains, for example, about affirmative action and other forms of “preferential treatment.”

Ibram X. Kendi, a scholar and historian of racism at Boston University, called the report “the last great lie from a Trump administration of great lies.”

“If we have commonly been given preferential treatment, then why do Black people remain on the lower and dying end of nearly every racial disparity?” Kendi said on Twitter. “Whenever they answer this question, they express racist ideas of Black inferiority while claiming they are ‘not racist.’”

Other scholars underscored what was left out. The report includes nothing of Native American history, and its only reference to Indigenous people is a racial slur quoted from the Declaration of Independence.

In one passage jeered by historians, the authors draw a comparison between the progressive movement in America and fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, said the report is intended to discredit contemporary public policies rooted in America’s progressive reform movement. He worries that, even after Biden dissolved the commission, its report could end up in some classrooms.

“Historians need to be paying attention to curriculum conversations in localities and at the state level,” Grossman said. “The nonsense that’s in this report will be used to legitimate similar nonsense.”

In a public meeting of the commission this month, some members held out hope that Biden would keep the commission alive. But others said they needed to push the report to state and local education officials.

“It’s really going to be up to governors and state legislators and school board members and parents and higher education commissioners even students to take this charge and carry this work forward,” said Doug Hoelscher, a White House assistant under Trump.

The report ultimately demands a shift in teaching at schools and at U.S. universities, which the panel describes as “hotbeds of anti-Americanism.” It denounces any teaching that breeds contempt for American ideals, blaming that kind of “destructive scholarship” for the nation’s divisions and for “so much of the violence in our cities.”

“To restore our society,” the report says, “academics must return to their vocation of relentlessly pursuing the truth and engaging in honest scholarship that seeks to understand the world and America’s place in it.”

Collin Binkley, The Associated Press


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The Latest: Psaki says Biden will call Trudeau on Friday

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WASHINGTON — The Latest on Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration (all times local):

7:30 p.m.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says President Joe Biden will call Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, the first call with a foreign leader after Biden took the oath of office.

Psaki said Wednesday at her first press briefing that the subject of the call will be relations between the United States and Canada as well as the status of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, whose permitting Biden revoked in one of his first acts as president.

Psaki says Biden’s first round of calls to foreign leaders will be with allies, adding that the new president plans to repair relationships damaged by former President Donald Trump’s adversarial approach.

___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT JOE BIDEN’S INAUGURATION AS THE 46TH U.S. PRESIDENT:

Joe Biden took the oath of office at noon Wednesday to become the 46th president of the United States. He takes charge in a deeply divided nation, inheriting a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.

Read more:

— Biden takes the helm as president: ‘Democracy has prevailed’

— Biden’s first act: Orders on pandemic, climate, immigration

— Biden charts new US direction, promises many Trump reversals

— Vice-President Harris: A new chapter opens in US politics

— Analysis: For Biden, chance to turn crisis into opportunity

— Trump pardons ex-strategist Steve Bannon, dozens of others

— Trump frees former aides from ethics pledge, lobbying ban

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

7:15 p.m.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki is delivering the first news briefing of Joe Biden’s presidency, a once standard part of past administrations that was largely sidelined during the Trump era.

Psaki said Wednesday that she will bring truth and transparency to the White House briefing room, a clear reference to her predecessors under President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration took an openly combative tone with the news media. Sean Spicer, who was Trump’s first press secretary, set the tenor four years ago by claiming that the audience at Trump’s inauguration was the largest in history, despite photographic evidence to the contrary.

___

7:10 p.m.

The Senate has voted to confirm Avril Haines as the new director of national intelligence, giving President Joe Biden the first member of his Cabinet.

The 84-10 vote by the Senate on Wednesday came after senators agreed to fast-track her nomination.

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it was fitting that Haines was confirmed first. He said the intelligence post is of “critical importance to the country.”

Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee at a confirmation hearing Tuesday that China would be an important focus of the Biden administration. She said she sees her role as speaking “truth to power” and delivering accurate and apolitical intelligence even if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient for the administration.

The Senate was able to vote quickly on the nomination, and bypass a committee vote, after Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton dropped his objection. Cotton had said he wanted to hear from Haines on the Bush-era CIA interrogation program before he agreed to move forward. Haines was a deputy CIA director in the Obama administration.

___

6:35 p.m.

The federal government has launched a new website that will serve as a clearinghouse for records from former President Donald Trump’s administration.

The National Archives and Records Administration announced the website on Wednesday. Eventually, it will be a repository of archived Trump-era documents, including his White House website and social media accounts. It will also offer information about accessing other records from Trump’s tenure.

The agency maintains records going back to President Herbert Hoover’s administration, which ended in 1933.

But there are questions about how meticulous the Trump administration was about keeping records. Trump was cavalier about a law requiring their preservation. He had a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out.

That’s led some historians and archivists to worry that there will be a gaping hole in the history of Trump’s tumultuous four years in office.

___

6:30 p.m.

President Joe Biden has given the Oval Office a slight makeover.

Biden revealed the new décor Wednesday as he invited reporters into his new office to watch him sign a series of executive orders hours after he took office.

A bust of Cesar Chavez, the labour leader and civil rights activist, is nestled among an array of framed family photos displayed on a desk behind the new president.

Benjamin Franklin peers down at Biden from a portrait on a nearby wall.

Biden brought a dark blue rug out of storage to replace a lighter colored one installed by former President Donald Trump.

One office feature remains: Biden is also using what’s known as the Resolute Desk because it was built from oak used in the British Arctic exploration ship HMS Resolute.

Trump used that desk, too.

___

6:15 p.m.

President Joe Biden is reminding his federal appointees and staff that “we work for the people” and is calling on them to be “decent, honourable and smart.”

Biden swore in nearly 1,000 federal appointees and staff in a virtual ceremony in the State Dining Room at the White House on Wednesday evening. He spoke from behind a lectern, while the appointees appeared at the event via video streams set up on a series of television screens.

Biden said that if any of his appointees treat a colleague with disrespect, he will fire them “on the spot.” He said that mindset had been missing in President Donald Trump’s White House.

The new president also told the group that “we have such an awful lot to do” and said that containing the pandemic and administering COVID-19 vaccines will be the “most consequential logistical thing that’s ever been done in the United States.”

He said he’s “going to make mistakes” but promised during their swearing-in that he will ”acknowledge them” when he does.

___

5:40 p.m.

One of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s signature achievements has met an abrupt end as a large placard enunciating his “professional ethos” was removed from the State Department’s main entrance.

Workers removed the giant sign from the department’s C Street lobby on Wednesday shortly after President Joe Biden was inaugurated. The placard had been prominently placed near a plaque honouring foreign service staff who died while serving their country, but many career diplomats considered it insulting and filled with unnecessary platitudes.

Department spokesperson Ned Price says, “We are confident that our colleagues do not need a reminder of the values we share.”

Pompeo unveiled his “ethos” statement to great fanfare in April 2019 with an eye toward improving morale. But it had the opposite effect, and many complained it was condescending.

Pompeo foes had accused the secretary and some of his top aides of failing to abide by the precepts of the ethos statement themselves, particularly during Trump’s Ukraine-related impeachment, when they decided not to publicly defend career diplomats.

___

5:20 p.m.

President Joe Biden has signed a series of executive orders from the Oval Office hours after his inauguration.

Biden wore a mask while seated behind the Resolute Desk with a stack of orders early Wednesday evening. He said there was “no time to start like today.”

The first order Biden signed was related to the coronavirus pandemic. He also signed an order reentering the U.S. into the Paris climate accord.

While his predecessor Donald Trump broke long-standing practice by skipping Biden’s inauguration, he did follow through on one tradition and left behind a letter for Biden.

The new Democratic president said Trump “wrote a very generous letter.” But Biden said he wouldn’t reveal its contents until he had a chance to speak with Trump.

___

4:55 p.m.

President Joe Biden has directed that federal agencies halt all rulemaking until his administration has time to review proposed regulations.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain announced the move in a memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies Wednesday afternoon, hours after Biden was sworn in as the nation’s 46th president.

The regulatory freeze order is a staple of presidential transitions, allowing the incoming administration to review the pending actions of their predecessors.

___

4:50 p.m.

Three new Democratic senators have been sworn in to office by Vice-President Kamala Harris. That means their party now has control of the White House and Congress for the first time in a decade.

Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff both won Senate runoff elections in Georgia earlier this month, defeating Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Alex Padilla was appointed by California’s governor to fill Harris’ seat.

Wednesday was Harris’ first time presiding over the Senate.

Warnock is Georgia’s first Black senator, and Padilla is California’s first Hispanic senator. Ossoff is Georgia’s first Jewish senator and, at 33, the Senate’s youngest sitting member.

The Senate is now divided 50-50. Democrats will be in control because the vice-president casts tiebreaking votes in the chamber. Democrats have a 221-211 House majority, with three vacancies.

Democrats last controlled the White House, Senate and House in January 2011.

___

4:40 p.m.

The New Radicals reunited after more than 20 years to virtually perform their 1998 hit “You Get What You Give” at the celebration for President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The anthem about social and political issues affecting America at the turn of the millennium raised eyebrows when it was announced for Wednesday’s festivities, but has strong connections to the president and vice-president.

In Biden’s 2017 autobiography, “Promise Me, Dad,” he wrote that “You Get What You Give” became the family’s theme song when his son Beau was battling cancer. The song was also used on the campaign trail as the theme for Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, at rallies.

“This whole damn world could fall apart/You’ll be okay, follow your heart,” go some of the lyrics. “Don’t give up, you’ve got a reason to live/Can’t forget, we only get what we give.”

The new administration also was serenaded — virtually, of course — by some of the funkiest artists in American music: Earth, Wind & Fire and Niles Rogers with Kathy Sledge.

Three members of Earth Wind & Fire — Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson — performed their hit “Sing a Song,” while Rogers and Sledge combined for a version of Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.”

The performances, interspliced with marching bands, varied performances and stories from Biden-Harris supporters, played on social media and online after the Biden and Harris families concluded the inauguration parade.

___

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President Kamala Harris has entered her new office building for the first time in her new role.

Harris was joined Wednesday by her husband, Doug Emhoff, as she entered the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses the vice-president’s office and is located near the White House.

The marching band of her alma mater, Howard University, helped lead Harris’ procession.

She was joined by her extended family and held hands with one of her young grandnieces, who was beaming and wearing a fur coat meant to mimic one Harris wore as a child.

Shouts of “We love you!” greeted her as she walked along the procession route. She waved at White House staffers gathered to watch and gave one final wave to the crowd before entering the building.

___

3:50 p.m.

President Joe Biden has entered the White House for the first time as chief executive after walking an abbreviated parade route, still wearing his protective mask amid sounds of “Hail to the Chief.”

The 46th president and first lady Jill Biden walked through a military cordon lining the White House driveway with the flags of U.S. states, leading the first couple to the main entrance under the North Portico on Wednesday.

Biden was expected to immediately begin working, with a stack of executive orders on immigration and other matters awaiting his signature.

The final ceremonial flourish completed an abbreviated inaugural afternoon unlike any Washington has seen, with Biden being seen in person by only a relative smattering of Americans given security lockdowns after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and public health protocols amid the ongoing pandemic.

___

3:45 p.m.

President Joe Biden and his family have concluded his inaugural parade by walking a final short distance of the route to the White House.

Biden, his wife, Jill Biden, their children and their grandchildren held hands Wednesday afternoon as they strolled, waving to a mostly nonexistent crowd because of coronavirus social distancing guidelines.

Biden jogged over to the sidelines several times to stop to talk to reporters and spectators.

The first family arrived on the White House grounds with a band playing and press in tow.

Joe and Jill Biden completed the trip by embracing at the entrance to the White House while the band played “Hail to the Chief.”

___

3:35 p.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says he hopes Donald Trump will continue to be the leader of the Republican Party after his election defeat and second impeachment.

The Republican senator said Wednesday during an interview on Fox News that “if you’re wanting to erase Donald Trump from the party, you’re going to get erased.”

Over the course of Trump’s one-term presidency, Graham went from being one of his fiercest critics to being one of his most prominent allies in Congress.

Graham said it was inappropriate for Republicans in Congress to try to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory and called Trump’s comments ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot “a big mistake.” But he says ultimately that it wasn’t a crime and that he blames “the people that came into the Capitol, not him.”

He said he thinks there would be a lot of support for Trump if he ran again in 2024.

He added: “But I’m not worried about 2024. I want to help Biden where I can, I want to get this country back on track.”

___

3:25 p.m.

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton says it really lifted her heart to see Joe Biden sworn in as president on the same platform that supporters of President Donald Trump climbed when they attacked the Capitol two weeks ago.

Clinton and her husband, the former President Bill Clinton, attended Wednesday’s inauguration of Biden. Afterward, she told The Associated Press that she was “relieved and grateful” to see Biden sworn in with a peaceful transition of power.

That’s been taken for granted in the U.S. for over two centuries. But two weeks ago, hundreds of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from formally certifying Biden’s election victory over Trump.

The House impeached Trump a week later on a charge of inciting an insurrection.

Clinton says she thinks it was meaningful to many Americans to see Biden take his oath of office where, “just a few weeks ago, marauders and terrorists had been attempting to stop democracy.”

Trump defeated Clinton for the presidency in 2016.

___

3:15 p.m.

The highest-ranking Black member of Congress says former President George W. Bush lauded his role as a “saviour” in helping get President Joe Biden elected to the White House.

U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said Wednesday on a call with reporters that the Republican former president told him ahead of the inaugural ceremony that, if he had not given Biden the boost he did ahead of South Carolina’s primary, “we would not be having this transfer of power today.”

Clyburn says Bush went on to say that Biden was “the only one who could have defeated the incumbent president,” Donald Trump. Trump and the Bush family didn’t get along.

Clyburn’s pivotal endorsement ahead of South Carolina’s Democratic primary helped propel Biden to the nomination. Biden won South Carolina by a margin of nearly 30 points.

Clyburn, South Carolina’s only Democratic representative in Congress, is the dean of the state’s Democrats and the third-ranking member of the U.S. House.

___

3:05 p.m.

President Joe Biden has spent a few of the first moments of his term at Arlington National Cemetery, honouring fallen veterans with three former presidents and their families.

The president, first lady Jill Biden, and newly sworn-in Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, presided over a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider on Wednesday.

After cannon fire rumbled in the distance, Biden saluted as a military band played the national anthem.

Biden and Harris later briefly touched the wreath before bowing their heads in prayer. The president also made the sign of the cross, then he and Harris stood somberly for the playing of taps.

Joining them at the ceremony were former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura and former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary.

Former President Donald Trump flew to Florida before Biden was sworn into office.

___

2:35 p.m.

President Joe Biden’s team has started moving into the White House.

The building began humming again with activity a few hours after Biden’s inauguration Wednesday as staff for the new president started moving into their offices, unpacking belongings and getting the badges that grant them easy access to the property.

New press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that she was “in the building and ready to get to work.” Psaki has scheduled the new administration’s first White House press briefing for later Wednesday.

Biden plans to sign a flurry of executive orders, some overturning actions by former President Donald Trump, once he gets to the Oval Office.

The White House had been largely emptied out of staff after Trump flew to Florida on Wednesday morning, skipping his successor’s swearing-in.

___

2:15 p.m.

President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris have taken part in the traditional inaugural military tradition of “Pass in Review.”

Biden, Harris and their spouses stood Wednesday on the East Front steps of the U.S. Capitol to observe the procession of ceremonial military regiments.

Several groupings passed by the steps, with military members saluting the newly minted president and musicians playing traditional patriotic tunes.

The inaugural parade that typically follows was to be replaced by a virtual parade later in the day because of concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the procession, the couples climbed into vehicles to travel to Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They were to be joined by the former presidents who attended the earlier inaugural ceremony.

___

1:50 p.m.

Congressional leaders have presented President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris with a variety of gifts, including a pair of flags flown over the U.S. Capitol during the inauguration.

The presentations to the officials and their respective spouses happened Wednesday in lieu of a congressional luncheon that typically follows the inauguration ceremony.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said Lenox had crafted a pair of commemorative vases for Biden and Harris, each weighing 32 pounds (14.5 kilograms).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell gifted them with a pair of U.S. flags that were flown over the Capitol during the inauguration. McConnell noted that both Biden and Harris served in the Senate and “skipped the House altogether.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer presented photos from Wednesday’s ceremony.

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri noted that the Smithsonian had loaned a painting titled “Landscape with Rainbow” by a notable Black painter from around the time of the Civil War.

___

1:40 p.m.

Vice-President Kamala Harris has now taken on a role that would have typically been performed by the outgoing president.

Harris and her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, stood on the U.S. Capitol steps Wednesday to bid farewell to her predecessor, former Vice-President Mike Pence, and his wife, Karen.

The two couples stood and chatted for a few moments, even laughing, on the steps before the Pences got into a vehicle and were driven away.

President Donald Trump typically would have performed the sendoff for his second-in-command but opted to skip Wednesday’s inaugural festivities.

Trump and his wife, Melania, went straight from the White House to Joint Base Andrews earlier Wednesday. He gave a campaign-style farewell speech before boarding Air Force One for a final time as president and travelling to his home in Florida.

Pence opted not to attend that event, instead attending Biden’s inauguration.

___

12:50 p.m.

Calm prevailed outside heavily fortified state capitol buildings across the U.S. as Joe Biden was sworn in as president.

The FBI had warned of the possibility for armed demonstrations leading up to the inauguration after President Donald Trump repeatedly and falsely claimed the election was stolen from him.

Fewer than a half-dozen demonstrators showed up outside the capitols in Concord, New Hampshire, and Lansing, Michigan. A lone protester wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat stood outside a chain-link fence surrounding the California Capitol in Sacramento, as dozens of police officers and National Guard troops guarded every entrance.

Three protesters were outside the Nebraska Capitol in Lincoln, one waving a flag that read “Biden is not the president.”

Dump trucks, prison buses and other government vehicles were used to barricade streets around the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, though no protesters were there.

Michigan lawmakers cancelled a session scheduled for Wednesday out of caution. But in Wisconsin, legislators planned to move ahead with a committee hearing that was to be open to the public.

___

12:45 p.m.

The official swearing-in ceremony for President Joe Biden has concluded, but more events are planned throughout the day.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden departed the platform at the U.S. Capitol following a ceremony that included Biden taking the oath Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States. Vice-President Kamala Harris also took her oath of office, becoming the nation’s first female vice-president.

The day included musical performances from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks. Celebrated poet Amanda Gorman read a piece noting that, “while democracy can be permanently delayed, it can never be permanently denied.”

Following his departure from the platform, Biden was expected to sign paperwork in the President’s Room within the U.S. Capitol. Afterward, he reviews troops outside the Capitol before departing and travelling to Arlington National Cemetery for a ceremony with former presidents in attendance.

Later Wednesday, Biden is expected to make his first official arrival at the White House as president before a virtual inaugural parade.

___

12:40 p.m.

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman summoned images dire and triumphant as she called out to the world “even as we grieved, we grew.”

Gorman is 22, by far the youngest inaugural poet since Robert Frost read for John F. Kennedy in 1961. She quoted biblical scripture and echoed the oratory of Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. among others as she recited her poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

She referred to the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, an event that she said helped inspire her to finish her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

___

12:30 p.m.

Garth Brooks has sung a gospel-tinged and beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The country superstar took off his black cowboy hat and kept his eyes closed for much of the powerful song, performing it a capella and without strain.

He offered a few dazzling smiles as the sun broke through the crowd and asked the audience to sing a verse with him. He said, “Not just the people here, but the people at home, to work as one united.”

After it was over, Brooks shook hands with Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris and former Vice-President Mike Pence.

Brooks performed during the inaugural celebration of President Barack Obama in 2009. He turned down a chance to play for President Donald Trump in 2017, citing a scheduling conflict.

The Associated Press
















































































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