The inauguration of Joe Biden

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 12:42 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021
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6:51 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden says he's "not concerned" his Cabinet isn't confirmed yet

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden says he has no concerns that top officials in his Cabinet have yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

"No I’m not concerned," Biden said when asked about the situation at the end of an event in the State Dining Room.

"I’m confident we can move quickly," he said.

Biden entered office with no Cabinet officials confirmed by the Senate, forcing his administration to name acting agency heads.

Five of Biden's Cabinet nominees participated in Senate confirmation hearings on Tuesday. They are...

  • Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department
  • Avril Haines, Biden's choice to lead the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary designate for the Department of Homeland Security
  • Antony Blinken to lead to State Department
  • Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin for Secretary of Defense

6:49 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Canada's Trudeau says he's "disappointed" by Biden's Keystone XL decision

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens during a news conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Ontario, on Tuesday, January 5.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens during a news conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Ontario, on Tuesday, January 5. David Kawai/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is "disappointed" to see President Joe Biden sign an executive order revoking the Keystone XL oil pipeline's permit. 

“Earlier today, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States of America. While we welcome the President's commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the President’s decision to fulfil his election campaign promise on Keystone XL," Trudeau said in a statement today. “I spoke directly with President Biden about the project last November, and Ambassador Hillman and others in our government made the case to high-level officials in the incoming administration."

Trudeau added: “Workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and across Canada will always have our support. Canada is the single-largest supplier of energy to the United States, contributing to U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness, and supporting thousands of jobs on both sides of the border."

Some context: Keystone XL has been a political football between climate activists and the oil industry. The planned pipeline would carry oil from the tar sands of Canada into the United States.

7:50 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden swears in presidential appointees in virtual White House ceremony

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Joe Biden just swore in presidential appointees from the White House in a virtual ceremony.

"We're one team," Biden told the appointees. "We have an obligation, but we also have a great privilege. Very few times does an individual get to do something that can fundamentally positively impact other people's lives, not only here but around the world."

Biden told the administration staffers they shouldn't be working for him unless they were serious about forcing change.

"We have a chance to change things. That's the reason I got involved in politics," he said. "I really mean it. So you shouldn't be doing this unless you feel it."

Biden also told his team they were "engaged in and working with the most decent government in the world" and that he was counting on them to help "restore the soul of this country."

"People don't work for us, we work for the people. I work for the people. They pay my salary. They pay your salary. They put their faith in you. I put my faith in you. And so we have an obligation," Biden continued.

Biden ticked through some of his upcoming challenges, calling efforts to distribute the coronavirus vaccine the most "consequential" logistical challenge in US history.

He said Americans' "blinders" had been lowered when it came to systemic racism, and cited specifically the death of George Floyd in saying racial justice needed to come to America.

Biden said the US "can meet this existential threat" of climate change, and cited a past conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping by saying his definition for the country was the single word: "possibility."

The President signed his first round of executive actions a bit ago, including an order requiring masks on federal property, one meant to ensure racial equality and another rejoining the Paris climate accord.

Here's a look at the events that will come next:

  • 7 p.m. ET: White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds the first press briefing.
  • 8:48 p.m. ET: Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris deliver remarks at the “Celebrating America” inaugural program.
  • 9:55 p.m. ET: Biden and the first lady will appear on the White House's Blue Room balcony.

Watch the moment:

6:39 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden says he'll fire White House staff if they don't treat each other with respect

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Joe Biden warned new staff members he would terminate them if he found them trashing one another.

Making explicit he wanted to break with the toxic environment that pervaded the West Wing during the previous administration, Biden said he wanted his staff governed by collegiality and respect.

“If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treating another colleague with disrespect, talking down to someone, I will fire you on the spot," Biden said in the State Dining Room during a ceremony swearing-in officials.

He said he wanted his staff to treat each other with decency, something he said had "been missing a big way the past four years."

Earlier in the ceremony, Biden said he wanted his staff to treat everyone with "dignity."

"History measures us and our fellow Americans…by how decent, honorable and smart we have been in looking out for their interests," he said.

6:24 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden re-engaging with WHO is "important step" in global vaccination effort, Dr. Sanjay Gupta says

From CNN's Leinz Vales

Just moments after President Joe Biden signed an executive order, beginning the process of re-engaging with the World Health Organization, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta said it was "an important step" in "the global vaccination effort."

"One thing we keep getting reminded of is that an infection anywhere in the world is an infection everywhere in the world," Gupta told CNN's Erin Burnett. "So the idea of being a part of a program that helps support vaccination efforts especially in low-income countries is really important. The goal is to get 2 billion vaccines to low-income countries by the end of next year."

More context: The Trump administration's notice of withdrawal from WHO was supposed to go in effect July 6, 2021.

6:12 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden signs 15 executive actions and 2 agency actions

From CNN's Phil Mattingly 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Joe Biden just completed signing the 15 executive actions and two agency actions, an administration official tells CNN.

What we know: Biden signed an order requiring masks on federal property, one meant to ensure racial equality and another rejoining the Paris climate accord.

Biden signed these three executive orders meant as early signs of his priorities and the start of an effort to erase his predecessor's agenda.

6:17 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden's director of national intelligence likely to get confirmed tonight

From CNN's Manu Raju

Avril Haines speaks during her confirmation hearing as Nominee for Director of National Intelligence on Capitol Hill on January 19, in Washington, DC.
Avril Haines speaks during her confirmation hearing as Nominee for Director of National Intelligence on Capitol Hill on January 19, in Washington, DC. Melina Mara/AFP/Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, dropped his hold on Avril Haines to be director of national intelligence, announcing on the floor that she had answered his outstanding questions.

"I'm ready to vote on this nomination," Cotton said.

Democratic and GOP senators expect she will be confirmed tonight with a big bipartisan vote.

President Joe Biden will then have one of his nominees on Inauguration Day; former President Trump had two, while former President's Barack Obama and George W. Bush had even more.

5:40 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

The US is getting back in the Paris climate accord. Here are key things to know. 

From CNN’s Drew Kann

Hours after he was sworn in, President Joe Biden sent notice to the United Nations that the US will reenter the Paris climate accord, the landmark international agreement signed in 2015 to limit global warming, a sign of Biden's urgency to address the climate crisis.

The US abandoned the agreement late last year on former President Trump's orders. Trump spent much of his time in office weakening many of the country's bedrock climate and environmental guardrails.

Experts say that rejoining Paris is a significant step by the Biden administration to reverse the climate policies of the last four years.

Now comes the hard work: As he takes the reins of the executive branch, the challenges that Biden faces rival any confronted by his 45 predecessors — an out-of-control pandemic, a sputtering economy and the threat of right-wing extremist violence stoked by viral misinformation.

Biden's action on Paris sends a strong message that the US is prepared to cooperate in the fight against climate change and seek to reclaim the leadership role it once held, experts say. Under the agreement, countries are expected to enhance their commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions every five years.

In 30 days, the US will be back in the agreement. From there, experts expect the pressure on the Biden administration to ratchet up.

 

5:33 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden signs first executive actions as president, including mandating masks on federal property

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Joe Biden, on camera, signed three executive orders Wednesday meant as early signs of his priorities and the start of an effort to erase his predecessor's agenda.

"This is going to be the first of many engagements we’re going to have in here," Biden told reporters, appearing for the first time in the Oval Office. "I thought with the state of the nation today there’s no time to waste. Get to work immediately."

Biden signed an order requiring masks on federal property, one meant to ensure racial equality and another rejoining the Paris climate accord.

Biden said they would be the first of many during his first days in office.

"As we indicated earlier we’re going to be signing a number of executive orders over the next several days to week," he said.

"Some of the executive actions that I’m going to be signing today are going to help change the course of the Covid crisis and combat climate change in ways we haven’t done so far," he went on.

He called the moves "starting points" that fulfilled his promises during the campaign.

"I think some of the things we’re going to be doing are going to be bold and vital and there's no time to start like today," he said.

"There’s a long way to go. These are just executive actions," he went on. "But we’re going to need legislation for a lot of these we’re going to do."

CNN reported that Biden plans to take 17 executive actions during his first hours in office, moving faster and more aggressively to dismantle his predecessor's legacy than any other modern president.